Monday, February 5, 2024

Ability Score Modifiers: Gone

Mark this in the "win" column for Tales of the Valiant. The game eliminates ability score modifiers. All of them. You create your ability scores with 3d6, drop the lowest, add 2/1, or use a 36-point purchase system.

You do not modify ability scores for race (D&D) or background (LU A5E).

If you encounter older content with ability score modifiers for a race/lineage - you ignore them. You start with more points; you do not need to modify anything. If your Dragonborn is strong, toss the points in STR.


This is such a simple system, and it moves Open 5E towards the GURPS model of point-buy - I love it. If your ogre is big and strong, buy it with points, just like GURPS. And you aren't writing down your character stats and then going back during character creation to erase holes in your sheet because a later pick gave you a point of STR.

One pass and done character creation, no going back - this is the future.

It also was the past if you played GURPS, but hey, we won't hold that against 5E players.

Level Up A5E gives the ability points as a part of the character's background, which is a dodge around the whole racial essentialism thing they were trying to escape - and they moved it to the background, which is just as problematic. If you use older content with race-based ability score modifiers, you ignore them here, too. If you had a player who really wanted the ability to score modifiers for a legacy content race, this is an either/or choice with the background modifiers - you do not get them both.

Only modifying scores once is the rule - if you do it.

Otherwise, give everyone more points at character creation and ignore it.

I like the latter.

Both games get character stats under control, eliminate the "favored race + class" combos, and prevent min-maxing. Thank you! 50 years of legacy junk modifiers were eliminated, and they are finally warming to the GURPS way of doing things.

The one thing Level Up A5E has over ToV right now is the diversity and depth of the choices for heritage (race), culture (culture), and background. ToV uses lineage (race), heritage (culture), and background - and the options in the ToV Alpha are limited.

A5E goes deeper into each system for everything in the game. It is full of "great idea" subsystems everywhere that give the game great depth at the cost of complexity. This is the "AD&D of 5E."

ToV is the "B/X" of the Open 5E era. Eliminating ability score modifiers after generation streamlines character creation, keeps you from needing to "go back" and change stats after you set them, and is more accessible for new players to understand than even 2014 D&D.

These games keep the promise of backward and cross compatibility, so I can buy one 5E adventure and play it with either game. ToV will have better character creation compatibility with 3rd party materials, whereas A5E does its own "advanced" thing. ToV will be a +1 CR power level higher than 5E or A5E, like Pathfinder 1e to 3.5E.

But both are excellent as long as you understand what they are trying to do and their design goals.

B/X sits out there shrugging its shoulders, saying, "I don't need any of this complexity around character creation, and you have designed yourself into a corner needing all this junk. Now you are incompatible with each other in different ways." I agree with that sentiment and feel that if I want all the "complexity" that 5E says it has and the depth of character creation - I will play Pathfinder 2 for that, or, better yet, GURPS/Dungeon Fantasy.

But Open 5E is moving along well. I have two primarily cross-compatible versions, with ToV being the better "character build" compatible and A5E being the more "math compatible" version of the original game. I feel that 2024 D&D will also have some power-level increase somewhere, likely hidden in the website as exclusive subscriber benefits.

To me, being able to do character sheets by hand is my core feature since it protects my investment in books and is a hedge against website sign-ups. I don't want to have a situation at my table where one player comes in with a character designed with D&D Beyond with OP website exclusive paid-for character options, and the rest of my table used the book, and they all feel they suck.

Pay-to-win is a real threat here.

If D&D Beyond falters and starts losing the company money, you can bet the PTW options will show up, and they will be ruining the game faster to prepare us for 6th Edition. This happened at the end of 3.5E and 4E; the overpowered options started flowing like water to retain players, and the net effect is destroying the game to keep attention on it. I feel 2024 will be a CR+1 game like ToV, and the old content will feel weak and underbalanced.

Wizards always start making a lot of noises and changes around the end of an edition. Big plans, new initiatives, patch versions, and many changes and noise.

Then, the new edition drops by surprise.

It was being worked on secretly, but we had to release it early since we needed numbers.

It may not be fully baked. 5E wasn't, many classes sucked. Open 5E efforts try to go back and fix those mistakes with hindsight; A5E's martial classes and rangers are cool. ToV will also have fixes for multiclass exploits, which are long overdue. I suspect the exploits will keep people in the 2014 edition because they are fun to combo.

And given the 5.5E only has a 3-year plan attached to it for profitability, 3 years from now, we will likely see a 6th Edition. Get ready for a rollercoaster of power-gaming options on the official site as finance demands more and more incentives, and the design team is forced to bend the knee and wreck the game because everyone's necks are on the chopping block.

You will go along with the subscriber target plan or be replaced.

I have been in companies like this, don't laugh.

Being on a short clock with finance guys dictating design sucks harder than you ever imagine.

3rd party lockout is another concern. Who cares about 3rd party options if they aren't on the site? In this case, you must use A5E or ToV to still use the books you paid for. This is my option; I will use my two games and keep my old books. I am not buying them twice or throwing them out.

We are seeing the free market develop viable Open 5E alternatives that cater to different audiences. I support those since the focus isn't on website sign-ups but on the game, book investment, and players coming first.

And 10 years from now, Open 5E will still be here, my books will still be usable, and I can still play the game I know and like today.

The 2024 release is all about "who controls your books."

You control your books. Open 5E solidifies that. Having print and PDF versions makes it forever.

It is not a company website with gated e-book access or a pay-per-month character creation program.

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