Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ability Scores and "Modifiers" in Dun Kells

One of the things that some folks complain about in 0e is that "ability scores don't mean anything." Some say this to the degree that they simply drop them.

In Dun Kells, I have decided that a 3d6 check against ability is something I want to do, but not all the time. For normal exploration and combat I want role-play and rulings to determine the outcome. But sometimes players want their characters to attempt something pretty crazy, gonzo, or, well, just difficult. I want ability checks, as a referee, so that the dice can play the "oracle" for me that I can interpret. I don't want it to turn into "New School" style "feats" and "skills." I just want some probability to be added to the mix so that I, as ref, have something else to help me to interpret what is going on and the likelihood that characters are successful, and the degree to which they are successful.

I also decided, contrary to what A LOT of fellow Old School folks like, to use the B/X modifier table:

18 = +3
17-16 = +2
15-13 = +1
12-9 = n/a
8-6 = -1
5-4 = -2
3 = -3

I like this, because it allows me another way to get ability scores to "mean something" in the game. The modifiers apply to various game mechanics such that one's ability scores affect other game mechanics than simply ability checks.

So, some examples: strength modifiers directly apply to melee "to hit" and damage, dexterity modifiers directly apply to range fire "to hit," constitution modifiers to hit point rolls and restoration, etc.

I realize this makes my game a bit more "crunchy" than many Old Schoolers like. I am willing to take that. I just want the ability scores to "mean something"! And I don't think it is too much crunch, just a little arithmetic. Players might choose simply to factor it into their "to hit" schedule directly rather than adding it per roll. There are ways for them to get used to it. And I believe they can and will get used to it.

Finally, I think it adds to the "flavor," or "feel" of a character, making role-play more fun - both for me and the players. And not just in the "bonus" category. Imagine someone who, astronomically, rolls a 3 for strength, but is determined to play a "knight" (the "fighting man" of my campaign). Well, now that is going to grant some very interesting situations that the player is going to have to role-play!

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