John’s doing some fairly common things with ability scores, and a couple of interesting ideas regarding them.
Related Threshold Pages
For this post I’m looking at
Ability Scores in Threshold
Defined Ability Scores
John’s using the D&D/d20 standard ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. He recommends a point buy scheme with varying point totals by campaign power level. Templates (“races”) can modify the purchased ability scores, and ability modifiers are calculated the same way as in D&D.
Ability scores control access to spell casting, per the normal rules (minimum score of 10 + spell level to cast a spell, bonus spell slots for scores of 12 or more, and so on). Spell casting is expected to depend on three scores instead of one, but I can’t really comment beyond that until I see spell casting rules.
That’s all pretty standard. The next section isn’t, and in fact this is the first place I’ve seen this done.
Each ability score has an associated pool. Initial value of each pool is equal to the associated ability score (so Strength 14 means you start with a pool of 14 Power). These pools are your ‘current value’ and can be changed during play.
Every two points the ability pool changes, checks made using the associated ability score get a +1/-1 modifier. As written, this might prove awkward for some players – Strength 13 is +1, Strength 14 and Strength 15 are both +2, but Power 13 might be +1 or +2 depending on starting score.
John identifies the ability pools at http://www.d20openrpg.com/characters/ability-conflicts and describes offensive and defensive uses for them. I’ll review that page below, but the identified pools are
|Constitution||Health||I would be inclined to use “Fortitude” – this pool is used to resist disease, poison, and so on, and it’s a recognized d20 saving throw.|
|Wisdom||Fate||It looks like Will saves are done using Charisma in Threshold.|
The ability pool table at http://www.d20openrpg.com/characters/ability-conflicts describe offensive and defensive applications for the abilities and ability pools.
John describes how ability pools can be used in ability conflicts. Ability conflicts appear to be an abstract mechanism for interpersonal conflict. I’ll need to think about them more before I’m comfortable commenting on them.
Threshold has traded ‘D&D Skills’ in for ‘Ability Challenges’. Various actions cost Action Points and may require an ability check. This is one of the longer pages I’ve seen on this site, and John identifies a moderately large number of challenges.
The Challenges page at http://www.d20openrpg.com/characters/ability-challenges says that you can buy up your bonus for certain challenge types using Talent Points. Since this page is specifically about challenges and the advancement table (which refers to skill points) is known to be out of date I am inclined to think that skill points are no longer used. I am not sure if skill ranks are used; presumably there is a limit on the number of Talent Points that can be spent building up a single ability challenge modifier.
Unlike D&D, up to two ability score modifiers apply to each check. For instance, Climb uses Strength and Dexterity. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the face of it this mechanism acknowledges that a particular challenge could be met (or at least influenced) by more than one facet of a character. This is good. However, it can trivially lead to great differences between modifiers between characters (if I get to add a good Dexterity modifier and a good Wisdom modifier to my Sneak check, it might be rather difficult for someone with modest Wisdom to Spot me). On the other hand, if precious Talent Points are not spent on building up challenge modifiers this might not get out of hand.
I like the idea, I’m wary of the implementation. It might be better to go with an average, if more than one ability modifier is used (ick, math), or just use the lesser (or the smaller) of the two, or just the greater (or larger). I don’t know.
I disagree with a few of the ability modifier assignments (I’d use Strength and Constitution on Swim checks rather than Strength and Dexterity, for example) but these are mostly minor nits rather than real problems.
Regardless of how Threshold is using ability pools, what I read in this section of the site gave me some inspiration for using ability pools, or something like them. I might do so even if I don’t use ability scores normally.
- Divorce modifiers from the ability pools. If you’re strong, you’re strong.
- Instead of modifiers, use thresholds to trip on a condition track. For example, at Reflect (Dexterity pool) 8, 6, 4, 2, and 0 you might suffer complications (Reflex 6 might mean you’re slowed or limited to a single action per round). This does mean that if your Dex is only 6 you’re going to be sucking hard. Given how uncommon such low ability scores are likely to be in Threshold, this is likely to be okay.
- Certain powers or actions may be ‘fueled’ by Ability Pools. “Pushing your Strength” uses Power (and if you use enough, you may find yourself suffering the complications mentioned above).
Ability score damage (something I’ve been wrestling with) now works against the pools rather than the base score. If used against someone strong in that pool (such as doing Strength damage to someone with high Strength) there is no real immediate effect – just as doing hit point damage has no real immediate effect.
Temporary Constitution change effects on hit points, I’m looking at you.
When Gargantu Juan (the big Mexican crimefighter) gets hit with a Strength-damaging attack his Power pool is reduced, but until he gets below ‘normal human’ amounts he isn’t particularly affected by the attack. Eventually the attacks can wear him down, especially if he’s spending Power points on feats of strength – and there’s even the concept of ‘conserving his strength’, not doing things because he’s going to need the strength later.
This wants some more consideration, but I like how it feels.
Overall it looks good.
I’m a little wary of the implementation of a few things, but that may be because I don’t fully understand them, or at least their implications. In those cases I want to think about things a bit more.
I did like what I came away with regarding the possible use of ability pools. I think the variation I tossed out here may lead to the solution to a problem I’ve been putting off, so for that I’m pleased.