Do we stil need Attribute Scores?


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Planpanther wrote:
How does ability drain work with out ability scores?

One point at a time.


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The way I understand it, ability scores are basically vestigial remains from the days where skill checks were d20 +/- modifiers, roll under your score for success.

I know that I still have to explain things to players (and I sometimes have to run math in my head) when ability scores change.

GM - "You take a -7 STR penalty from Ray of Enfeeblement.
Player - "So I take a -7 on STR stuff?"
GM - "No, that's a penalty to your score."
Player - "What does that do to my modifier?"
GM - "Is your score even or odd?"
Player - "That matters?"
GM - "Yes, since every other stat point changes your bonus."
Player - "I'm confused."
GM - "Let me see your sheet.... Okay, you have a 16 in STR, so the -7 penalty makes that a 9. A 9 gives you a new STR mod of -1."
Player - "How did you get that."
GM - "The formula for your modifiers is Score - 10, divide by 2, round down, so 9 - 10 = -1, divided by 2 is -0.5, round down is -1."
Player - So I take a -1 penalty on my STR based checks?"
GM - "No, you replace your +3 with a -1."
Player - "Um..."
GM - "...Nevermind. Just take a -4 penalty to your STR rolls."
Player - "Okay, how does that effect my greatsword's damage?"
GM - *screams internally*

Or in the cases of a slightly more experienced player.

GM - "You take 7 STR damage".
Player - "Okay, give me a minute to recalculate my STR score, they the Modifier, then apply that penalty everywhere that it matters."

It would be so much easier to just have modifiers, and have temp penalties that apply to those modifiers. Change score generation rules (easier since Point Buy is pretty much standard) and halve all sources of Ability Damage/Boosts and we're done.

If you really want to roll for stats, just use the old method and add the math for determining your Modifier at the end. Easy.


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*knocks on door, opens it, peeks in, whispers*

Ability modifiers used to be on bell curve

*slowly pulls head back through the door and closes it*

Paizo Employee Designer

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DerNils wrote:

Something that has been bothering me for quite some editions now - why do we need the actual scores? Wouldn't it be easier to just use your bonuses for everything?

Aside from Carrying Capacitiy and odd feat requirements, I can't think of an instnce where the actual Attribute Score is used. And for those instances they could easily be replaced.
I would actually help roleplay Immersion, because right now, it makes it more Abstract for People to compare/imagine characters: "I have strength 15, you only a measly 10!" This sounds like the strength 15 guy is one and a half time as strong as the average guy.
Well, in actual Play that means our strongman is only 10% stronger/more likely to succeed in any deed of strength. So basically having them as +0 and +2 respectively is much more descriptive than the current system.

We support your decision to only use modifiers, the tradition of ability scores is too strong to remove them. It shouldn't be hard for you to just stick with modifiers though.


Hythlodeus wrote:
and how would one roll the modifiers?

Well, there's the Age system. You roll dice just like you do in PF or D&D, but you get a modifier score that is between 1-4 for your final ability score.

I actually WANT the ability scores to stay in Pathfinder though. I like having ability scores.


Some folks are forgeting that in 3.x/PF1 odd attribute scores are a requisite for taking certains feats, like Dodge or TWF. And I preffer to stay as it is, otherwise as some people has said, they are better gone and we can work only with modiffiers.


while I would be all for removing 1 or 2 ability scores removing them all is something I wouldn't want.


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Planpanther wrote:
How does ability drain work with out ability scores?

Ability drain only works every 2 anyways. My main problem comes with the +1 you get every four levels (or every 5 in 2nd edition), that may or may not give you a modifier increase.

As for everyone complaining about explaining. You have two groups. You have new players that will ask questions regardless, and you really shouldn't be b@&*~ing. They are new players keeping this game alive. The second is players that honestly, don't give a f#++. If it isn't ability scores, it will be something else.

Also any player having trouble learning should be given a character sheet and shown how to fill it out. They shouldn't have to figure out how much their to-hit is every turn. The paizo sheets don't have it, but the dyslexic studios character sheets have a place for generic melee bonus and generic ranged bonus.

Dark Archive

Having seen the Glass Cannon podcast, I think that ability damage and ability drain may in fact be removed from the game all together, being replaced by flat negative modifiers with the ability to increase like enfeeblement 1, 2, and so on. If this is the case, then I really don't see the point of attribute scores. Lets just have the modifiers


I, for one, would prefer if the game used only the ability scores and got rid of the modifiers :| The reason being that the modifiers grow too slowly with levels.
When I start with 18 in Con and increase it to 19 at level 4, it's supposed to be a big deal but it actually gives me precisely nothing. In the same vein, it doesn't make sense that the stat-boosting items or effects can only ever give even bonuses.


Mark Seifter wrote:


We support your decision to only use modifiers, the tradition of ability scores is too strong to remove them. It shouldn't be hard for you to just stick with modifiers though.

Thanks, Mark. I guess that ends the discussion right there ;) And i completely understand the reasoning. Even in this thread I heard enough people that like them just for the recognition factor to make it a relevant Marketing decision.

Only interesting Point for me is will Ability Scores get any MORE use in the new Edition? That would be the other option. But based on your answer I get a "no" vibe.

And ability damage will go the way of negative Levels, I guess. Turn from "actually modifies your score" to "a fixed malus for a certain time".


Ooh, I didn't see that xd6 quick-generation stuffs. I'll have to let our DM know about that. Sounds great for NPCs!

Planpanther wrote:
How does ability drain work with out ability scores?

You would divide the drain by 2. You'd have to keep track of half-points, unless all drains were increased to be a minimum of 2.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Oh my god the number of times I’ve had to explain to players that their ability score doesn’t mean anything and that the ability modifier is all they need to add to their other statistics.

Ability scores are a vestigial limb, a twitching throwback that interacts with very few elements (ability score damage, carrying capacity and bonus spells), all of which are easily cleaned up (halve all sources of ability score damage, use Bulk = 10+2*STR mod, create a table for bonus spells that replaces the ability score ranges with ability mods). Mutants and Masterminds, True 20 and Blue Rose did away with ability scores and they were better off unshackled from them.

6 point buy is fairly reasonable in an ability Mods only game.

I doubt Paizo is about to truly unshackle themselves from the past. But honestly, what is the point of ability scores if all you use is the the mod?

What percentage of your players actually have this problem? I've never had this problem, and I've taught a lot of new people how to play the game.


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DerNils wrote:

I explained the problems in the OP, but just to reiterate:

Strength 20 Barbarion vs Strength 10 Commoner: "OMG, that guy is twice as strong as I am!"
"Nope, he is 25% as strong as you are"
Or
"Roll a Strength Check."
"Do I need to roll under or above that score? Or do I add it?"
"Nope, you use the number next to it and add it to a D20 roll."
Or
"You take 5 Points of Strength Damage"
"Ok, that makes my new number a 9 - was that a -1 or 0 again?"

All very common questions from newbies, People from other Systems or just not that involved Gamers. Never had the same question in Fate, Savage Worlds or any other System where you only have one number that is used (be it a Bonus as in Fate or an Attribute Dice like in SW)

How long did it take to get the actual truth across to them? Once again this is a problem I never had. If it comes up again send them to the boards. I'm more than willing to handle this for you, so everyone else can learn how to explain it.

Yes, I'm serious.


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Fuzzypaws wrote:
I've suggested this very thing in other threads. I've lost track of the number of times I've had to tell even players who have played for years not to add their full score to something. We already know odd ability scores are meaningless, and all they do is get used for feat prereqs and make afflictions / debuffs harder to adjudicate / grok for the "average" player. I'd really rather just see the modifiers.

This is first or second session stuff. If they play for years and don't get it they had terrible teachers or... I'm just going to stop right here before I get flagged.


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I'm going to stop on this note. When trying to make a point you can't use an unlikely event and expect for it to stand up to scrutiny, and hold up as a supporting cause.

It doesn't strengthen your case when many people easily teach themselves how to make characters and even those who don't are confused with the actual score after years of playing. The only way this is likely is if they played, and then didnt play for years later so they forgot the rules. If they play even only twice a month that makes them "not a normal" case, and an outlier.

When the sample size for failure is that small and that extreme it's operator error.


Some players need constant attention to make sure they get their attack modifiers right, and never seem to get any better. When they learn something, they've usually forgotten it by next week.

Maybe you've just been lucky.


Wheldrake wrote:
Some elements of our favorite hobby are so fundamental that we shouldn't change them without good reason. The six basic characteristics, like the alignment axes and Vancian spellcasting are things you just can't take away from any serious successor to D&D.

BECMI now being defined as not a "serious successor to D&D" (there's only one alignment axis in that, see) makes me sad.


Matthew Downie wrote:

Some players need constant attention to make sure they get their attack modifiers right, and never seem to get any better. When they learn something, they've usually forgotten it by next week.

Maybe you've just been lucky.

nah, it certainly isn't just wraithstrike's luck, 'cause, believe me, I'm not a lucky person at all, but I know how to teach and people confusing scores with modifiers is something that can be taught over the first couple of sessions very easily

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
wraithstrike wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Oh my god the number of times I’ve had to explain to players that their ability score doesn’t mean anything and that the ability modifier is all they need to add to their other statistics.

Ability scores are a vestigial limb, a twitching throwback that interacts with very few elements (ability score damage, carrying capacity and bonus spells), all of which are easily cleaned up (halve all sources of ability score damage, use Bulk = 10+2*STR mod, create a table for bonus spells that replaces the ability score ranges with ability mods). Mutants and Masterminds, True 20 and Blue Rose did away with ability scores and they were better off unshackled from them.

6 point buy is fairly reasonable in an ability Mods only game.

I doubt Paizo is about to truly unshackle themselves from the past. But honestly, what is the point of ability scores if all you use is the the mod?

What percentage of your players actually have this problem? I've never had this problem, and I've taught a lot of new people how to play the game.

Of the roughly 30 people I’ve taught how to play Pathfinder, almost all of them.

Like roughly 90% made this error in the first session.
Maybe a quarter of that made the error multiple times after that.

The only reason it’s still a thing is because of tradition, it doesn’t add any real value to the game because you never make a roll that adds your entire ability score.

The only game I’ve seen classic ability scores used well is Over the Wall and Other Adventures, where character creation is done via questionnaire with the party and skill checks are rolled with a d20 trying to roll under a score. A spread of 8-18 works really well for that.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Like such a BIG DEAL is made of ability score generation, but it’s like customizing your face in Skyrim. You might spend three hours on it, but when you play the game in first person nobody sees it.

Ability but scores just sit on the corner of your character sheet literally doing nothing but bearing ceremonial significance and taking up valuable real estate. It’s like the British Monarchy.


Ability score and modifier confusion is definitely a legit thing that causes problems. There is obviously the type of player that gets it straight away after the first couple of sessions but there is also a type of player that never gets it for a wide variety of reasons.

Sometimes they drop out after one session and then come back several sessions later. Sometimes they are afraid to say they don't get it when you explain it and just smile and nod. Some groups also have lots of guest players drop in and out over the course of a campaign. Some players just don't care that much and are playing because they like to socialise, they get what you're saying (after you wasted valuable game time to say it btw) but just don't fully absorb it for when you play again in two weeks time. I've seen it all over two decades of GMing.

I think it would be best to remove ability scores but I understand why paizo isn't. They have a concern which I am seeing is super legit from this forum that many of their fans are attached and sensitive to the trappings and tropes of the previous games no matter how flawed some of those things are.


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I think ability scores should be minorly expanded upon. When two creatures make contesting checks and roll the same result, the crature with an uneven score should automatically win the tie. Like they basically have a 0.5 higher modifier.

That at least gives players a small reason not to go for as many even numbered ability scores as possible.


Mark Seifter wrote:

We support your decision to only use modifiers, the tradition of ability scores is too strong to remove them. It shouldn't be hard for you to just stick with modifiers though.

Thank you for giving such an honest answer, and I can understand why, from a marketing perspective this is so. Personally, I am very excited about the new edition and look forward to seeing it in play. However, I think it was a mistake to sanctify attributes as the central pillar of a role playing game (not paizo’s doing), and it is unfortunate to hold on to this abilist vestige of gaming’s past. And just dropping attribute values in place of raw attribute modifiers would only elevate the problem of making magic and abilities that effect attributes the most powerful elements in the game. I much prefer all the ways paizo has moved to have training and experience be the primary driver of what makes a character their character rather than a specific set of 6 concrete numbers that represent the entire range of abstract ideas about abilities. The more the new edition focuses on making spells, skills and magic items focus on the specific mechanics that are relevant to them, the better.


Gorbacz wrote:

You can kill Fort/Ref/Will, BAB, CMB/CMD, you can make Perception and Concentration not a skill, you can ax XP costs for crafting, you can make undead susceptible to crits, but touching Str/Dex/Con/Int/Wis/Cha expressed on the 3d6 scale is likely the line in sand where people will cry betrayal and accuse you of setting Gary's grave on fire.

That and making magic missile roll to hit.

Have to agree with my magically enchanted cloth friend.


Using 0 as a base average works well in Ars Magica but that game used a pure Characteristic+Ability+Die system and while it probably is doable in PF, the rule changes necessary to make such a system work probably aren't worth the effort.


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So now I've seen people advocate for the removal of: Alignment, Classes, Attributes, Skills, and Levels.

And yet other people are concerned about Pathfinder losing its identity.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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To lose is to gain, to let go of old chains is the beginning of freedom


Ability scores can have uses besides the mod. For example, you can carry 1/2 of your Str in bulk in Starfinder, you can jump your Str score in feet in 5e, and you can hold your breath 2x your Con score in PF.


The first one is just your modifier +5. The others are twice your modifier plus 10, but one imagines that in a modifier-only edition, those two would be defined more elegantly than that.


I support the OP proposal to drop ability scores distinct from modifiers themselves.

The only substantial relevance of stat number distinct from modifier is odd-numbers which are used for Feat Pre-Reqs.
I.e. they 'cost' minorly more than modifier justifies but allow Feat access, although application of that was honestly very sparse,
odd-stats pre-Reqs were just NOT used for vast majority of Feats, largely just a few 'must have' Feat Taxes (Power Attack etc), although Eldritch Heritage was exception.
If Paizo wants to claim this as "untouchable tradition", I'd like to know what they are planning to do with that area (stat pre-req Feats).
IMHO the retention of ability scores 1-degree removed from modifiers is only justified if they intend on doing MORE with them than 3.x/P1E.
(Emphasizing ability pre-reqs on non-class specific feats seems reasonable way to gate access to 'appropriate' characters while agnostic to actual class/m-class build.
Class specific Feats shouldn't generally have stat pre-reqs, unless that is used to discern Class sub-options/builds (e.g. CHA/Channel focued Cleric, STR/DEX Monk or Ranger)

I guess one could include ability drain as relevant, with 2x stat:modifier relationship allowing finer degree of ability damage including "1 damage not affecting your modifier".
(although this is solely matter of fine-ness of damage tracking, one can have all same effects without needing ability score distinct from modifier)
But apparently Paizo is moving away from ability damage towards "modifier penalty" which would entirely remove the relevance of stat vs modifier in that regard.
Personally, I feel dubious about that change on it's own merit, and would like to hear more about it's impact. Will Spellcasting/Ability Pre-Req Feats be cut off by Ability Drain still?
That is the main thing which distinguishes Ability Drain from 'random de-buff penalty not even connected to that stat' although STR uniquely also implies Carry Capacity.
To me, it isn't a big deal to recognize stat changes can cut off ability to use Spells/Feats, that means you actually have reason to remove Stat Drain vs just acquire arbitrary buff that applies to same roll (or more).


Arakhor wrote:
The first one is just your modifier +5. The others are twice your modifier plus 10, but one imagines that in a modifier-only edition, those two would be defined more elegantly than that.

Yes, it is pretty obvious that he ability Stat can be reverse engineered backwards from the mod, because both are related. But to do that means you lose any positive effect of having only modifiers.

Also, as a (minor?) point, none of your formula represents correctly someone with 15 Str for example. That's an extra feet to jump, or to hold your breath, which is lost in the less granular version of modx2 +10 or modx4+20. In SD, the 15 STR gain benefit from backpack or theme that increase your Str by 1


Obviously, in a modifier-only system, those tiny extra differences wouldn't come about. Besides, if being able to jump an extra foot or hold your breath for a few seconds more is that important, I doubt that d20 is really the right game for that level of survival play.


thflame wrote:

The way I understand it, ability scores are basically vestigial remains from the days where skill checks were d20 +/- modifiers, roll under your score for success.

I know that I still have to explain things to players (and I sometimes have to run math in my head) when ability scores change.

GM - "You take a -7 STR penalty from Ray of Enfeeblement.
Player - "So I take a -7 on STR stuff?"
GM - "No, that's a penalty to your score."
Player - "What does that do to my modifier?"
GM - "Is your score even or odd?"
Player - "That matters?"
GM - "Yes, since every other stat point changes your bonus."
Player - "I'm confused."
GM - "Let me see your sheet.... Okay, you have a 16 in STR, so the -7 penalty makes that a 9. A 9 gives you a new STR mod of -1."
Player - "How did you get that."
GM - "The formula for your modifiers is Score - 10, divide by 2, round down, so 9 - 10 = -1, divided by 2 is -0.5, round down is -1."
Player - So I take a -1 penalty on my STR based checks?"
GM - "No, you replace your +3 with a -1."
Player - "Um..."
GM - "...Nevermind. Just take a -4 penalty to your STR rolls."
Player - "Okay, how does that effect my greatsword's damage?"
GM - *screams internally*

Or in the cases of a slightly more experienced player.

GM - "You take 7 STR damage".
Player - "Okay, give me a minute to recalculate my STR score, they the Modifier, then apply that penalty everywhere that it matters."

It would be so much easier to just have modifiers, and have temp penalties that apply to those modifiers. Change score generation rules (easier since Point Buy is pretty much standard) and halve all sources of Ability Damage/Boosts and we're done.

If you really want to roll for stats, just use the old method and add the math for determining your Modifier at the end. Easy.

Just FYI, both of your examples are wrong. Ability Penalties/Damage don't change the actual score, only Ability Drain does that. Penalty/Damage is just a flat -1 to stuff per 2 Ability/Damage. In your example, they'd each take -3 to Str Skill Checks, Attack/Damage Rolls based on Str, CMB and CMD. That's it, no need to recalculate on the fly.

OT: No, leave scores as is. They're not any harder to explain than any other part of the system and at this point they're ingrained in the collective subconcious.

But then Mark already said they're not going away so...


I agree with this. Most examples you could think of, that utilize or balance ability scores are the byproduct of the necessity to balance and utilize ability scores in the first place.

You'd lose some granularity, but as a payoff you get much less huge ugly spreadsheets, and you don't have to calculate things as much. Also, the fact most ability-affecting effects usually appear in +/- 2, 4, 6... speaks volumes of the score system's redundancy.

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