"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

B/X Ability Scores

From page B6:
A couple of things that strike me:
1. They are called "Ability" scores instead of attribute scores, stats, etc. The word "ability" is also used throughout the descriptions.
"Strength" is a measure of muscle power and the ability to use that power.
"Intelligence" is the ability to learn and remember knowledge, and the ability to solve problems.
etc...

2. I noticed a number of times in the descriptions terms (or closely related terms) that become "skills" in later editions - balance, endurance, intuition, knowledge, etc.

Ability scores are more than just the raw characteristics of a character. They also reflect the ability to harness these characteristics into actual abilities. You don't need a swim skill to know if the character can swim across a raging river. A DM can reasonably determine if a character can swim based on his background. He can take a look at the character's strength and see of he has the ability to harness his strength to swim across the raging river or he can ask for a save vs strength or any other mechanic to let the dice decide.

Ability Scores + Class give all of the skills anyone could possibly use.

10 comments:

  1. The only pisser is thinking that people are so two-dimensional so as to only ever be one thing, or in this case, Class.

    Other than that, yeah, you're spot-on.
    --Oops, what about the Thief and their Skills? Or the MU and the Cleric and their % to create new spells, magic items, and perform research?

    Hmm...

    ;)

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  2. "Ability Scores + Class give all of the skills anyone could possibly use."
    including the thief's class skills and the magic-user's class skills.

    I am not saying that ability scores are all you need.
    But ability scores + class skills are.

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  3. In the B/X campaign I just started, the players are redefining "creative" in regards to what they have their PCs attempt. And so I've been leaning on Ability Score checks (w/ suitable modifiers) rather heavily. It works!

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  4. Fantastic! I love it when players do crazy stuff.

    I usually use one of three systems for adjudicating unusual situations.
    1. save vs ability as you have mentioned

    2. 2d6 + ability modifier using categories similar to the reaction roll
    2 = very bad (no, and)
    3-5 = bad (no, but)
    6-8 = neutral or roll again
    9-11 = good (yes, but)
    12 = really good (yes, and)

    3. adapt an existing mechanic, for example using the find secret doors mechanic for perception or intuition type stuff, the open doors mechanic for proactive physical stuff, saving throws for reactive physical stuff, attack rolls vs an AC for some fine motor skills, etc.

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  5. Option 2 I've seen before (I think) but seeing it here as you outline it is clicking for me. I think I need to give it a try. Thanks!

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  6. I made a post on this very topic a couple of weeks back, and my thoughts were definitely of the 'option 2' variety.

    Simpler yet is the idea of fit that I used in Dungeonautica for Risus. It's only making a table out of what DMs do in their heads, but tables give everyone confidence and the illusion of impartiality...

    Level of Fit (modifier to 3d6* roll-under vs ability score)
    Perfect-this task is meat and drink to the class/character (-3)
    Excellent-maybe she doesn't do it everyday, but she'd never call herself this class/character if she couldn't do it (-1)
    Good-the class/character has some training or experience with this sort of thing, but she would just as soon not do it (±0)
    Poor-there is nothing about the class/character that suggests the ability to complete this task (+1)
    Terrible-this task is the antithesis of all that the class/character stands for (+3)

    * If you roll 4d6 discard the lowest to generate the scores, you should do the same for roll-under skill

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  7. My sub-comment was tied to my first, namely, that folks aren't simply one thing.
    --I know this came up in your very generous Dual/Multi-Classing offer, but I stick to my guns on this.

    Oh, well. To each their own. :D

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  8. As I’ve stepped back into B/X boots, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really, really don’t care much about the ability scores at all.

    Look at Diomedes on your on-line game…he seems quite the “character” (not using the RPG meaning of the term), yet except for a Wisdom of 13, all his attributes are in the 8-10 range. The attribute bonuses simply don’t make enough difference in B/X to be used much in characterization.

    Or perhaps they make a BIG difference at the extremes of the mechanic (an 18 strength gives a +15% bonus to hit and an average +50% bonus to damage, while a Constitution of 4 makes even a 3rd level thief practically un-playable). But because there are so few selections on class selection based on attributes in B/X (as opposed to say, AD&D), AND because the main difference in character type comes from one’s class (which in B/X includes race as well) …well, for me attributes bonuses or penalties are simply “brownie points.”

    As far as being “two-dimensional” (um…I assume you all mean “one-dimensional?” If you are treating the character as a simple game piece, what’s the 2nd “dimension?”)…well, folks get what they put into it.

    Pat: I think you’ve really found something that’s oft over-looked when you talk about attributes being “ability” scores. And perhaps the original wargamers and such meant them to be that way…(and they generalized those abilities rather than coming up with long, detailed, specific lists of abilities and skills…quite forward-thinking of them really).

    But I would like to note that the B/X rules explicitly state “it is assumed all characters know how to swim”(last paragraph page X63).

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  9. Yes they can swim unless there is a roleplaying reason why not.
    I treat most "skills" like this - horse riding, climbing, etc - the default is they know how unless there is a reason not.

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  10. I think you’ve really found something that’s oft over-looked when you talk about attributes being “ability” scores. And perhaps the original wargamers and such meant them to be that way…(and they generalized those abilities rather than coming up with long, detailed, specific lists of abilities and skills…quite forward-thinking of them really).
    Or I could be reading more into it than what is there...
    Like Old Geezer over at RPGnet says,
    They just made up some sh!t that sounded like it would be fun.

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