Sunday, September 23, 2012

What if Ability Bonuses were not "Always On"?

What impact would it have on D&D and similar games if ability scores were not "always on"?
DEX bonus to Ac only being counted when a the character was focusing on defense, STR bonus to damage only coming into play when using a two handed weapon... and so on.

Would player choice in active play be more meaningful if otherwise common modifiers were tied to direct play choices and were not always on? Situational modifiers can get picky and forgotten when cluttered among a host of other modifiers but if ability modifiers are only applied on a situational basis they become the scores to modify a situation and there are only a few of those on each character sheet.

Radical crazy, maybe. But without high ability scores being "always on" a player has to make choices beyond character creation and maybe not lean on high ability scores over tactics.


  1. I'm confused regarding how this would change play. It seems like the modifier is only consulted in a case where the character is trying to use the ability in question. For example, when swinging a sword one could assume that they are "activating" the strength bonus. Could you give some examples where the modifier would not apply in your proposed system?

  2. Let's take a situation where you are in melee, do you apply a DEX bonus to AC to defend oneself or do you use your STR bonus to damage to bash your foes skull in?

  3. Ah, I see. Would that mean that you would have to concentrate to get the constitution bonus to HP also? Can you think of a place where this might come up outside of combat?

  4. Flying Swordsmen works that way. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to run a round, though. Does everyone choose their "bonus" for the round first, then cycle through actions, or does each player choose it on their turn, and it lasts until their turn comes up again?

  5. I would have the bonus last until a characters turn comes up again in combat.

    Outside of combat I suppose we could make things a little more mechanical: on watch apply a perception bonus , resting to heal up + CON bonus, praying WIS bonus and such.

  6. I think it would be nice to have each stat with a passive and a situational modifier. Because it seems like # of Lang should be always on, ya know?