An Opportunity to Consolidate Ability Score and Modifier


Prerelease Discussion


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Hey Guys.

I only started playing Tabletop RPGs a few years ago and P1E is the first system that I have ever played (though I did used to love thumbing through older D&D sourcebooks just for the feel and flavor of them).

I think because I didn't have any actual experience with playing the older classic D&D games there were a bunch of oddities in P1E that I had to struggle with to understand. They're a bit second nature to me now but there are definitely a lot of mental hurdles that need to be cleared to get even a basic level of proficiency in playing and understanding Pathfinder 1E. Now complexity isn't a dirty word as that is what enables the character customization and options that we all love. But needless complexity is of no help to anyone.

Which leads me to one bit of needless complexity in classic D&D that this is the perfect time to put out to pasture with P2E. And that is having two numbers for abilities when one will do.

Why oh why are there two numbers to define a character's ability? Why have score and modifier, with one of them being directly derived from the other. (To get Modifier you do (Score - 10) / 2 Rounded Down Or you look it up in a table)

Compared to other major changes being made to P2E (such as three actions per round, completely different spell casting, completely new death rules etc.) keeping the modifier only is a minor change.

Sure it would take a bit of getting used to for veterans but it wouldn't detract from the moment to moment game and in fact remove one extra thing to think about.

(example: what is the modifier for 23 again? Uh... well 23-10 is 13 and /2 is 6.5 which means +6! Why not just have the +6?)

And for newcomers every bit of simplification and streamlining helps to get situated to the game. Especially when looking at an intimidating character sheet with a ton of boxes to fill out. Getting rid of scores and just keeping modifier would remove six numbers from the character sheet and that is a pretty damn good cleanup!

Sure this would mean we would have a little less granularity. But honestly having odd numbers in ability scores is a tedious bit of crunchiness that doesn't bring much benefit to the mechanics of the game and no benefit at all to the flavour. It's a bit of legacy that can easily be moved on from.

And heck there's weird situations all over the place in P1E such as a +1 weapon being twice as powerful as getting a +1 to STR. Why? 'cause that +1 on the weapon impacts the game directly while the +1 to STR impacts the score instead which you need two of to make a difference to the modifier which is what actually matters. Blaaaarrgggh!

Currently we have the situation where Ability Score is what matters during Character Creation and Advancement while Ability Modifier is the number that matters for actually playing the character. This is unnecessary and so easily resolved at the start of a brand new edition.

Honestly Paizo design has been trending in this direction for a long while anyway.

The Simplified Monster Creation rules in Unchained and Starfinder don't even bother to give ability scores to NPCs/Monsters because... what's the point? And if there's no point there then there's no real point for PCs to have them either is there?

The Automatic Bonus Progression system in Unchained hands out even score bonuses all over the place which guarantees that the modifier (the thing that matters in the game) will go up by +1 anytime the bonus is earned and avoids the situation where you get a shiny new +1 to score and... it doesn't matter one bit to how powerful you are in game!

Consolidating matters by using one number rather than two will

* Make the Character sheet simpler
* Make the introduction of new players to the system easier.
* Tie Character Creation and Advancement closer to the moment to moment gameplay as it will be the same number used in both places (modifier).
* Have minimal impact on the moment to moment gameplay since we almost entirely use modifier there anyway

On the other hand the ability score is something that is very well known and well loved by veterans and removing it is certainly a big aesthetic change.

But it's a far smaller one than many of the other changes that we've seen so far on the blog. Let's just rip this particular bandaid off once and for all and not look back!

NB: I made a post very much like this in the Starfinder forums where I decried this is a Lost Opportunity.


Well unfortunately prepare to cry for missed opportunities again because scores and modifiers are staying for 2e too.

Near as I recall, I think Mark mentioned that some things are just core to the identity of PF/D&D that they feel their hands are tied in keeping them around. Ability scores I believe were one of them and another example was saving throws keeping that name even if consolidating the language to checks like everything else is technically a better move.

For the record, I'm with you that ditching scores for modifiers exclusively is much cleaner (the only thing you need to change is ability drain but that's not hard).


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

There was a recent thread on this: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2v2l4?Let-s-get-rid-of-ability-scores-in-favor- of

Along with another post either in that thread or elsewhere, I don't recall, with the Dev's saying that thought about it, but decided against it.


For what it's worth, the DC Adventures game (based on Mutants & Masterminds and the OGL) already does this. I think the only thing you miss is some of the granularity in the Strength tables.


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Ah. Sadness. Oh well. I've started House ruling it for my Starfinder game, which, ironically, makes things a bit more complicated as players have to remember the core score+modifier rule as well as my modifier only tweak. I think it just irritates my computer programming soul to have this kind of useless redundancy!

Bleah. Still this is supposed to be a playtest so the more people that chime in the more chances for Paizo designers to reflect. I don't see why having a STR of 18/4 as opposed to 4 is such a sacred cow.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

I mentioned it before, but I still think a good compromise would be to change ability scores slightly so they equal 10 + your modifier. This would mean that a Strength of 18 (modifier +4) in 1st edition would become a Strength of 14 (modifier still +4).

That said, it's very probable that ability scores are one of those lines where crossing it would alienate too many old fans.


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Yeah I looked at the older thread where you mentioned the same thing. I think old fans (I think the term is grognard?) would be intolerant of changing ability score like you suggest just as much as ditching it entirely.

A common argument seems to be questioning how it would work with rolling 3d6 for score. Which is not a great argument since a roll of 3d6 can be very easily converted to your type of score or directly to modifier.


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You know the sad thing is that the game is being designed around ability stats that dont really matter like they used to. Its like a fake out nod to traditionalists. If the devs were evolving stat damage and ability score generation Id see some reason in the keeping of them. So far, everything revealed in PF2 makes them pointless. /signed

Silver Crusade

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Planpanther wrote:
You know the sad thing is that the game is being designed around ability stats that dont really matter like they used to. Its like a fake out nod to traditionalists. If the devs were evolving stat damage and ability score generation Id see some reason in the keeping of them. So far, everything revealed in PF2 makes them pointless. /signed

I continue to expect that "ability boosts" applied to a score of 16 or greater will grant +1 rather than +2. That may be the only way I can think of that the traditional 3d6-style ability scores will remain relevant, but it's something I guess.

I'll be curious to see if they're relevant in any other way in the Playtest rules.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I'll be scouring the playtest document pretty thoroughly. If there is nothing that the base stat effects, and so far it seems they've removed a lot of them, and there is never a way to get a +1 to a stat I will be giving the feedback that ability scores are not just obsolete but a waste of page and character sheet space.

The only one I can think of so far is Strength for Bulk capacity, but it takes just as many words to say "You can carry up to your Strength score in Bulk, and up to half before being encumbered" as it is to say "You can carry up to your Strength in Bulk before being encumbered, and upto double total."


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I actually see their new ability generation system, where apparently all scores are even (the ones that matter), as baby steps toward getting rid of ability scores in an eventual PF3 in 10-15 years. They're changing enough already this time that they are worried about "a bridge too far" with old core concepts like the ability scores. But if people get used to only having ability scores that directly affect the modifier, then later on people could be more open to changing to modifiers directly. :)


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

The optimist in me: I hope that at least a significant proportion of gamers who would have a gut reaction as "a bridge to far" could be reasoned around when show that ability scrores are 100% meaningless.

The pessimist in me: I doubt removing a vestigial part of character creation will drive away any one who hasn't already given up on PF2 so why try to cater to people operating on emotional response?


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Fuzzypaws wrote:
I actually see their new ability generation system, where apparently all scores are even (the ones that matter), as baby steps toward getting rid of ability scores in an eventual PF3 in 10-15 years. They're changing enough already this time that they are worried about "a bridge too far" with old core concepts like the ability scores. But if people get used to only having ability scores that directly affect the modifier, then later on people could be more open to changing to modifiers directly. :)

Thats what I mean by a head fake to traditionalists. Its patronizing to keep the item in with no reason. Not something you should be smiling about.

Grand Lodge

When my GM allows it, I like to roll characters. Even if they do point buy, I usually roll for alignment, height, weight, and age. When I GM, I usually roll NPCs with the classic "roll in the order on the sheet, then pick the class" method.

I like to do this for two reasons:

  • I believe that constraints are an important in fostering creativity (e.g. form in poetry)
  • I like the feeling of being "born" in a character that has a set of proclivities that they have to learn to use to their advantage, rather than getting to choose what their natural abilities are

Granted, they could probably come up with a proxy system for rolling ability bonuses, but then the old school gamers would complain :P

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah at this point apart from Bulk, I haven’t seen any compelling reasons to keep Ability Scores in the game at all.

Even Bulk can be reworded to: “You carry Bulk equal to 10 + Strength & Constitution modifier”.

For those who really love rolling stats, you can still do that by rolling 1d6-1d4. (Should provide average +1 on scores but you can still get from -3 to +5).


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Fuzzypaws wrote:
I actually see their new ability generation system, where apparently all scores are even (the ones that matter), as baby steps toward getting rid of ability scores in an eventual PF3 in 10-15 years. They're changing enough already this time that they are worried about "a bridge too far" with old core concepts like the ability scores. But if people get used to only having ability scores that directly affect the modifier, then later on people could be more open to changing to modifiers directly. :)

A similar thought occured to me. As I said in the other thread, I think it is also helpful if terminology and basic character sheet bears some resemblance to 5e, so that players can transition into pathfinder easier. Theoretically there will be people who start with 5e as their first TTRPG but crave a more robust system. That it helps keep some old grognards happy too is enough to keep the scores.

For now, I'm satisfied that we won't have odd scores anymore. :)

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