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Thread: Why Modifiers?

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Why Modifiers?

    I was just looking over a new RPG today and it's yet another game that, like D&D, has ability scores or statistics from which the actual functional modifier that you use in the game is derived. Like, I get that it's what D&D did so clones and copies are bound to arise, but why is it so ubiquitous? I mean, it's not every system and there's plenty of alternatives, but what's the purpose of an 18 Dex if the functional number being used for anything to do with Dex isn't 18, but 5 or 4 or whatever? Particularly when stats are being assigned by an array or point buy? I get it, there's a purpose when you're rolling stats, assuming you're looking for certain distributions or curves to skew the modifiers towards a particular number, but even then, why is the calculating number even on the character sheet when the useful number already is? Flipside, why derive a modifier at all? Why not use that base number? Is it because people don't like adding numbers over 10 or something? If that's the case, then implement a roll-under system or something, where any circumstantial modifiers can either be added to your base score or die roll, or represented by different dice, either in number or value.

    It all just seems unnecessarily complicated, which is what puzzles me; are game designers not thinking about the system they're implementing? Are they just copy/pasting from what's familiar without considering what it is they're copying? It doesn't make any sense to me.

    Just a little rant, sorry.
    I apologise if I come across daft. I'm a bit like that. I also like a good argument, so please don't take offence if I'm somewhat...forthright.

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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Totally agree, it's one reason I've moved away from D&D as my core game.
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    I can't say I disagree with you. Having different scores from modifiers has never made tons of sense to me. Using the scores directly doesn't work if you want to keep a d20 and simple addition--even a score of 10 blows the d20 out of the water, doubling the average value.

    I'm in the process of hacking 5e D&D into a shape that I like better going forward than OneD&D. And one of the changes is merging ability scores and modifiers. That is, your "Strength score" is also your "Strength modifier" and is in a range (for PCs) of -5 -- +5.

    There have been a few things that were made more complicated coming from a D&D base, but not enough to care about (IMO):

    * Rolling for stats now requires more math to keep the same distribution. Although one could argue it's the same math you were doing already, just explicitly as part of rolling. Ie floor((4d6k3 - 10)/2), done 6x.
    * Carry capacity had to be reworked. Instead of 15 x STR score, it's now 150 + 30 x STR modifier.
    * Similarly, jumping distance (for long jumps anyway) had to change. That's ok, I was changing that anyway.
    * Class ASIs are now "+1 to one" (effectively always +2 to something, but since you can't have odd scores anyway, it's kinda moot) and +1 Skill Trick (a sort of feat replacement, but smaller).
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Derived values allow you to have 1 number acting like 2 for the purpose of using different resolutions mechanics. So 20 strength and +5 strength can be used depending on the given subsystem.
    I do agree it is over used and falls apart in most non bounded systems. Makes a lot of sense If the Modifier range from -2 to 2 rather than a sizable portion of the original value.

    In my WIP I don't use them. Your score is your score and while there are a few situational features that might alter it for certain effects it mostly reads straight across.
    Last edited by stoutstien; 2023-08-23 at 10:06 AM.

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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    I'll note that having all modifiers being ten points higher changes nothing if all the target numbers are raised ten points. But that's just because the 'using scores instead blows the d20 out of the water' argument annoys me.

    I can see stat modifiers working better in systems where attributes fluctuate a lot, e.g. if they're used as health/status/condition tracks. Particularly if the modifiers don't follow a simple pattern. However in most games the stats themselves basically never change and so might as well disappear.
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I'll note that having all modifiers being ten points higher changes nothing if all the target numbers are raised ten points. But that's just because the 'using scores instead blows the d20 out of the water' argument annoys me.
    It actually doesn't fix the issue unless all target numbers are 10 higher and the distribution of ability scores is uniform. Because "subtract 10 and divide by 2" =/= "subtract 10". The dynamic range for 1d20 + score[1] is [2, 40]. The dynamic range for 1d20 + modifier (under the same assumptions) is [-4, 25]. That's not a secular shift. And in the latter case, the range accessible by d20 alone (ie if you have 0 modifier) is [1,20], which is 20 out of 30 (2/3) of the entire dynamic range. In the former case, well, the d20 alone only provides half at best of the total.

    [1] assuming scores are in the range [1, 20] like 5e. If the scores can be higher, the situation gets even worse.
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Originally the 3d6 random stat generation was used to make characters more like the general populace, mostly average across most of their abilities. Along with that, the effects of high and low scores were not linear generic effects that all had the same value. The current paradigm of picking ability scores, simplifying everything to a minimum, and wanting to have everything be equally valid/useful has completely divorced the actual "ability score" from the actual game mechanics. Modern D&D-style ability scores are basically as useful as hair color. Its just the result of relentless streamlining and standardization. For D&D these days you could easily manage with three stats; body, mind, and soul, that were a spread of +1, +3, +5. The game would work perfectly and you'd save a bunch of space on the character sheets. While you're at it you can cut the skill list to; sports, schooling, hard knocks, talky, and find clues.

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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I'll note that having all modifiers being ten points higher changes nothing if all the target numbers are raised ten points. But that's just because the 'using scores instead blows the d20 out of the water' argument annoys me.
    Were they talking about the average being 10 points higher or about the range being twice as long? If they were talking about the average then you are absolutely correct. If they were talking about the range, it gets more complicated. 14 Str vs 20 Str (for example someone getting better over time) has a modifier difference of 3 and a score difference of 6. This would be similar to 5E proficiency being doubled (or quadrupled for those with expertise).

    The easy conversion of just using the scores as the modifiers will change how fast the modifier increases. In isolation that changes nothing if the target numbers also change how fast they increase. However it does change comparisons between 2 modifiers vs the same target number.

    Example:
    DC 10 vs +3 or +5 results in 70% and 80% chances.
    DC 24 vs +16 or +20 results 65% and 85% chances.
    This is only a slight drift when the comparison is for a small range. If the comparison was between -2 vs +8 then the drift would push them off of the same d20 range.

    Whether this drift is positive, neutral, or negative is subjective and requires context.


    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I can see stat modifiers working better in systems where attributes fluctuate a lot, e.g. if they're used as health/status/condition tracks. Particularly if the modifiers don't follow a simple pattern. However in most games the stats themselves basically never change and so might as well disappear.
    I recently ran several 3.P sessions with ability score damage. A VTT helped manage it. There is potential there, but for me, in that case, I think it would have also been fine if the score was used as the modifier.
    Last edited by OldTrees1; 2023-08-23 at 10:43 AM.

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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Using the scores directly doesn't work if you want to keep a d20 and simple addition--even a score of 10 blows the d20 out of the water, doubling the average value.
    In these sort of cases, there's always "roll under" mechanics. It always seemed intuitive to me that if "normal human" range for a given score is 3-18 (or 3d6), then a d20-roll-under is perfectly viable, giving virtually the exact same distribution of success as d20-add-mods where a score of 10-11 is a +0 and the target number (DC, AC, etc.) for your baseline is 10. You can even keep circumstantial modifiers virtually the same, just modifying your base score rather than the die roll.

    i.e.
    "Roll-Add-vs.TN"
    Average score:10, Mod:+0
    Average TN:10
    55% success rate

    "Roll-Under" (let's assume "equal to or under" is a success)
    Average score:10
    Average circumstantial mod: +0
    50% success rate

    The difference here, particularly if we're comparing to D&D of 3e or later, is that an ability score of 11 still gives a 55% success rate but in both systems, making the "roll-under" system slightly more granular but no less complex, perhaps even simpler because there's no "ability score modifier" to derive. You could literally change nothing else about the system, bar adding modifiers to the Ability Score rather than the die roll, whatever those other mods are (e.g. magic weapons, lighting, etc.) and it would be functionally identical (more or less).

    If you wanted to delve into it a little more, a roll-under system can solve contested rolls much more intuitively (to my mind). By inherently incorporating a success/failure rate (i.e. rolling over your ability score is always a failure, allowing both parties not to succeed, vice versa and in-between), you have four potential outcomes to the contest rather than the two that a direct comparison of roll+mods offers:
    1) Both parties Fail
    2) Party A fails, Party B succeeds
    3) Party A succeeds, Party B fails
    4) Both parties succeed

    In cases 1-3, the outcome is clear; either the contest is a wash (1) or one or other party beats the other (2-3). In the case of both parties succeeding (4), whoever rolls the highest wins the contest (allowing higher ceilings to potentially dominate a lower one), but allows for moderate success on the others part.

    For example, in an archery contest, either party could miss, one could miss and the other hit or both can hit, but whoever rolls higher (with a clear advantage to the better archer if they're able to succeed with a higher die roll) gets the better "win". Where this is an advantage is when there are more than just two contestants, because just having the highest roll is not the deciding factor as much as it is when merely comparing scores.

    e.g. In the classic example of a halfling vs. an ogre arm wrestling; the Ogre has huge modifiers, but rolls a 1 and then the puny Halfling comes along and rolls a 20, embarrassing the burly Ogre by winning the contest. In a Roll-highest-under-score system and assuming the two are in direct contest the Halfling will have a much more limited range of "success" to rely on and rolling over that range is an abject failure. If the Halflings Strength Score is only 10, no roll over that will allow him to beat the Ogre, whereas the Ogre, with a Strength of 24 (or whatever) will always roll a success and can only be beaten by the Halfling is A) the Halfling rolls under 10 and B) the Ogre rolls under the Halfling. Following on from this thought (sorry, pursuing a train of thought now; I haven't thought this through too much lately), super-human values (such as the Ogres 24 Strength) could even be incorporated further by adding any score in excess of 20 to the die roll after success is determined, which in our example would mean the Halfling not only has to roll under his own Strength of 10, but also has to roll at least 4 points higher than the Ogre to win i.e. the Ogre will always win on an unmodified roll of 7 or more, regardless of the Halflings roll. Borrowing from Infinity:Casus Belli, Critical success could occur by matching your ability score (i.e. if your score is 16, you crit on a 16; the highest possible result that is a success for you) and scores in excess of 20 could offer a range of crits by deducting the excess from 20 i.e. our Ogre would crit on a 16+ (20-4=16). In this context, critical hits for superhuman ability would be far more common, making fighting creatures that possess them that much more deadly, so crits could either be toned down or the increase in danger be embraced whole-hearted.

    I dunno, just digging up some old thoughts again.
    I apologise if I come across daft. I'm a bit like that. I also like a good argument, so please don't take offence if I'm somewhat...forthright.

    Please be aware; when it comes to 5ed D&D, I own Core (1st printing) and SCAG only. All my opinions and rulings are based solely on those, unless otherwise stated. I reserve the right of ignorance of errata or any other source.

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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by OldTrees1 View Post
    Were they talking about the average being 10 points higher or about the range being twice as long? If they were talking about the average then you are absolutely correct. If they were talking about the range, it gets more complicated. 14 Str vs 20 Str (for example someone getting better over time) has a modifier difference of 3 and a score difference of 6. This would be similar to 5E proficiency being doubled (or quadrupled for those with expertise).

    The easy conversion of just using the scores as the modifiers will change how fast the modifier increases. In isolation that changes nothing if the target numbers also change how fast they increase. However it does change comparisons between 2 modifiers vs the same target number.

    Example:
    DC 10 vs +3 or +5 results in 70% and 80% chances.
    DC 24 vs +16 or +20 results 65% and 85% chances.
    This is only a slight drift when the comparison is for a small range. If the comparison was between -2 vs +8 then the drift would push them off of the same d20 range.

    Whether this drift is positive, neutral, or negative is subjective and requires context.
    You're right that it doesn't directly work with how D&D does modifiers, but I've also played games where modifiers were literally 'stat-10'. I was more talking about where you plonk the centre of the range, not adjusting range size (so D&D5e would run stats from 6 to 15 instead of stats from 3 to 20 and modifiers from -5 to +5), and could have been a lot more clear.

    I recently ran several 3.P sessions with ability score damage. A VTT helped manage it. There is potential there, but for me, in that case, I think it would have also been fine if the score was used as the modifier.
    I honestly think I'd go with a system that doesn't have the crunch of D&D, possibly look at games like Spire or Apocalypse World for inspiration. My physical copy of Ironsworn is arriving this week or next week, so I might see if that has any ideas to help make such an idea work.

    Honestly I'm not sure if it's worth it when you can replace stats with spendable pools (e.g. Cypher), but it's an interesting idea.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by JellyPooga View Post
    In these sort of cases, there's always "roll under" mechanics. It always seemed intuitive to me that if "normal human" range for a given score is 3-18 (or 3d6), then a d20-roll-under is perfectly viable, giving virtually the exact same distribution of success as d20-add-mods where a score of 10-11 is a +0 and the target number (DC, AC, etc.) for your baseline is 10.
    That doesn't have as good a solution as the TN mechanic for varying task difficulty by anything other than who's doing it. When you get into combat, you also have questions of how attributes will influence your rolls. The old TSR method just gave arbitrary bonuses* when your stats fell into certain ranges. Which coincidentally encouraged demihumans to place stats so that their positive modifier boosted a stat that was high enough to matter for secondary modifiers, while having their negative modifier affect a stat that was middling enough that it didn't. 3e made a lot of changes in direct response to how 2e was played.

    *(Or penalties, but I can't remember the last time I saw a character actually place stats such that they had a penalty to a combat relevant stat.)

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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by JellyPooga View Post
    In these sort of cases, there's always "roll under" mechanics. It always seemed intuitive to me that if "normal human" range for a given score is 3-18 (or 3d6), then a d20-roll-under is perfectly viable, giving virtually the exact same distribution of success as d20-add-mods where a score of 10-11 is a +0 and the target number (DC, AC, etc.) for your baseline is 10. You can even keep circumstantial modifiers virtually the same, just modifying your base score rather than the die roll.

    i.e.
    "Roll-Add-vs.TN"
    Average score:10, Mod:+0
    Average TN:10
    55% success rate

    "Roll-Under" (let's assume "equal to or under" is a success)
    Average score:10
    Average circumstantial mod: +0
    50% success rate

    The difference here, particularly if we're comparing to D&D of 3e or later, is that an ability score of 11 still gives a 55% success rate but in both systems, making the "roll-under" system slightly more granular but no less complex, perhaps even simpler because there's no "ability score modifier" to derive. You could literally change nothing else about the system, bar adding modifiers to the Ability Score rather than the die roll, whatever those other mods are (e.g. magic weapons, lighting, etc.) and it would be functionally identical (more or less).

    If you wanted to delve into it a little more, a roll-under system can solve contested rolls much more intuitively (to my mind). By inherently incorporating a success/failure rate (i.e. rolling over your ability score is always a failure, allowing both parties not to succeed, vice versa and in-between), you have four potential outcomes to the contest rather than the two that a direct comparison of roll+mods offers:
    1) Both parties Fail
    2) Party A fails, Party B succeeds
    3) Party A succeeds, Party B fails
    4) Both parties succeed

    In cases 1-3, the outcome is clear; either the contest is a wash (1) or one or other party beats the other (2-3). In the case of both parties succeeding (4), whoever rolls the highest wins the contest (allowing higher ceilings to potentially dominate a lower one), but allows for moderate success on the others part.

    For example, in an archery contest, either party could miss, one could miss and the other hit or both can hit, but whoever rolls higher (with a clear advantage to the better archer if they're able to succeed with a higher die roll) gets the better "win". Where this is an advantage is when there are more than just two contestants, because just having the highest roll is not the deciding factor as much as it is when merely comparing scores.

    e.g. In the classic example of a halfling vs. an ogre arm wrestling; the Ogre has huge modifiers, but rolls a 1 and then the puny Halfling comes along and rolls a 20, embarrassing the burly Ogre by winning the contest. In a Roll-highest-under-score system and assuming the two are in direct contest the Halfling will have a much more limited range of "success" to rely on and rolling over that range is an abject failure. If the Halflings Strength Score is only 10, no roll over that will allow him to beat the Ogre, whereas the Ogre, with a Strength of 24 (or whatever) will always roll a success and can only be beaten by the Halfling is A) the Halfling rolls under 10 and B) the Ogre rolls under the Halfling. Following on from this thought (sorry, pursuing a train of thought now; I haven't thought this through too much lately), super-human values (such as the Ogres 24 Strength) could even be incorporated further by adding any score in excess of 20 to the die roll after success is determined, which in our example would mean the Halfling not only has to roll under his own Strength of 10, but also has to roll at least 4 points higher than the Ogre to win i.e. the Ogre will always win on an unmodified roll of 7 or more, regardless of the Halflings roll. Borrowing from Infinity:Casus Belli, Critical success could occur by matching your ability score (i.e. if your score is 16, you crit on a 16; the highest possible result that is a success for you) and scores in excess of 20 could offer a range of crits by deducting the excess from 20 i.e. our Ogre would crit on a 16+ (20-4=16). In this context, critical hits for superhuman ability would be far more common, making fighting creatures that possess them that much more deadly, so crits could either be toned down or the increase in danger be embraced whole-hearted.

    I dunno, just digging up some old thoughts again.
    Yeah. If you rewrite how the system works, you can easily have "stats" in any range. I was more talking about doing a straight "use D&D 1d20 + mod >= TN" mechanics but making mods == ability score.
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    You may as well ask why X number of dice? Our BitD game varies the number of dice we roll based on how many dots we have in an ability.

    (FWIW, D&D wise, I like the B/X approach of 13-15 = +1, 16-17 = +2, and 18 = +3 better than the WotC number scheme and I think that they could have used that and fitted bounded accuracy into the edition just fine)

    In our Mothership game, we do a Rull Under (your score, Plus your skil mod if you have it) on a percentile dice roll.
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    That doesn't have as good a solution as the TN mechanic for varying task difficulty by anything other than who's doing it. When you get into combat, you also have questions of how attributes will influence your rolls. The old TSR method just gave arbitrary bonuses* when your stats fell into certain ranges. Which coincidentally encouraged demihumans to place stats so that their positive modifier boosted a stat that was high enough to matter for secondary modifiers, while having their negative modifier affect a stat that was middling enough that it didn't. 3e made a lot of changes in direct response to how 2e was played.

    *(Or penalties, but I can't remember the last time I saw a character actually place stats such that they had a penalty to a combat relevant stat.)
    The answer to that is to modify the Ability Score for difficulty i.e. rather than having a Target Number (in D&D's case a Difficulty Class) you have a Target Modifier (or Difficulty Modifier). The difference between them is negligible, but the point is that it takes out the step of deriving Ability Mod from Ability Score. Every other metric or modifier is either unchanged e.g. a +1 sword will still offer the same +1 and the same difference in chance, it's just being applied in a slightly different place. The same applies for any other modifier, whether it's static (e.g. proficiency bonus) or a die (e.g. Bardic Inspiration). As for how abilities influence rolls, they'll do it in the exact same way they already do; an attack with a longsword is a strength check whether you're rolling and adding your Strength mod or rolling under your Strength score, just as a spell attack is an intelligence based roll or intimidation is a charisma roll. The biggest difference is the diversity of outcome possibilities that result from the details involved in making "roll under" work (such as superhuman stats and critical hits, as I discussed previously).
    I apologise if I come across daft. I'm a bit like that. I also like a good argument, so please don't take offence if I'm somewhat...forthright.

    Please be aware; when it comes to 5ed D&D, I own Core (1st printing) and SCAG only. All my opinions and rulings are based solely on those, unless otherwise stated. I reserve the right of ignorance of errata or any other source.

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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    If you did things properly from a statistical point of view, i.e. roll 3d6 , and have your modifier be based on intervals of 3 rather than 2 and properly center the range on 10.5 , (so e.g. 7 - 13 are modifier +0, 14 - 17 are + 1, and 18 is +2) then your modifier is approximately how many standard deviations away from the mean your attribute is. This basically treats 3d6 as an easy way to generate an approximate Z statistic for how different from the mean your character is, and then smooths out small differences between attributes, while also simplifying the arithmetic. Adding a single digit number to a double digit number is easy, most people pause a bit at adding two double digit numbers because you need to keep a partial sum in your working memory. Your modifiers are also "correctly rare" in a statistical sense, something that is completely lost in the modern point buy then get +2/+1 to some scores sort of approach where there just isn't any underlying population distribution at work at all. Even the mode generous 4d6b3 roll still has this underlying association, it's just saying PCs are on average slightly better than the population as a whole in every single attribute.

    (I've also always found this approach makes racial score adjustments make a lot more sense. A dwarf getting +2 to strength is simply saying that the dwarf strength distribution is shifted slightly higher than the human, i.e. on average dwarves are stronger than humans. This only gets goofy when you don't generate your characters as a sample from a population, but as bespoke entities with no relation to any population whatsoever. If you roll stats, a human who rolls a 12 is weaker than a dwarf who rolls a twelve, because they're both slightly above average for their species, but dwarves are slightly stronger than humans. If you're playing the modern lab-grown character, there's no real reason for the dwarf to be stronger because there's no sense of what a population of dwarves is like, or how that relates to your specific genetically engineered PC.)
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Larger base bonuses work fine with the d20 IF you are assuming you character is intended to generally be successful at their job. The lower the bonus, the more likely they are to fail. If you intend for your martial types to almost always be able to hit things with weapons, and your caster types to almost always succeed on spells, then higher bonuses work better to accomplish that. They also emphasize weakness, since a +2 remains positive and useful, but not competitive with a +6 in the way that +1 is competitive with a +3. Similarly, they allow "normal folk NPCs" to be presented with positive scores, without making them seem like they're about to take on a PC.

    You'd probably be able to best manage this system with a point-buy, rather than flat ASI increases. The incentive to max out scores is much lower and you can grow the cost much further with a smoother grade with +/-10 than +/-5.
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    A bonus of 15 is as likely to hit a target number of 24 as a bonus of 7 is to hit a target number of 16. Stop assuming that a systematic increase in bonuses wouldn't be tied to a systematic increase in target numbers.

    What actually matters is the difference between the standard target number and standard bonus. Several games I know assume characters begin with a +5 bonus in their most skilled areas and adjust the target number tables to that.

    One game I know actually does get the maths wrong, because it's a 2d6 roll under system with optional rules for roll over set one point too high (2d6+stat, standard DC of 15 instead of 14).
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    If you did things properly from a statistical point of view, i.e. roll 3d6 , and have your modifier be based on intervals of 3 rather than 2 and properly center the range on 10.5 , (so e.g. 7 - 13 are modifier +0, 14 - 17 are + 1, and 18 is +2) then your modifier is approximately how many standard deviations away from the mean your attribute is
    I think that Worlds Without Number does this.
    . This basically treats 3d6 as an easy way to generate an approximate Z statistic for how different from the mean your character is, and then smooths out small differences between attributes, while also simplifying the arithmetic.
    Yep
    Adding a single digit number to a double digit number is easy, most people pause a bit at adding two double digit numbers because you need to keep a partial sum in your working memory.
    Interesting point on mental math.
    Even the mode generous 4d6b3 roll still has this underlying association, it's just saying PCs are on average slightly better than the population as a whole in every single attribute.
    And I remember that being introduced in AD&D 1e.
    If you're playing the modern lab-grown character, there's no real reason for the dwarf to be stronger because there's no sense of what a population of dwarves is like, or how that relates to your specific genetically engineered PC.)
    That got a chuckle out of me.
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by stoutstien View Post
    Derived values allow you to have 1 number acting like 2 for the purpose of using different resolutions mechanics. So 20 strength and +5 strength can be used depending on the given subsystem.
    I do agree it is over used and falls apart in most non bounded systems. Makes a lot of sense If the Modifier range from -2 to 2 rather than a sizable portion of the original value.
    I also feel that most systems where I encounter derived values don't really do anything with it.

    Like, in D&D 5e, the only time your actual score comes into question is Strength for determining carry weight and jump distance and height. A couple monsters attack your scores directly and kill you if they bring a score down to 0, but, really, it's a very rare use case. 99% of the time, there's no real reason to track your score instead of your modifier.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    You're right that it doesn't directly work with how D&D does modifiers, but I've also played games where modifiers were literally 'stat-10'. I was more talking about where you plonk the center of the range, not adjusting range size (so D&D5e would run stats from 6 to 15 instead of stats from 3 to 20 and modifiers from -5 to +5), and could have been a lot more clear.
    You're right (as expected). The center of the target number range can be adjusted to perfectly compensate for any adjustment to the center of the modifier range.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silly Name View Post
    I also feel that most systems where I encounter derived values don't really do anything with it.

    Like, in D&D 5e, the only time your actual score comes into question is Strength for determining carry weight and jump distance and height. A couple monsters attack your scores directly and kill you if they bring a score down to 0, but, really, it's a very rare use case. 99% of the time, there's no real reason to track your score instead of your modifier.
    I find this line of thinking to be needlessly reductionist, and too much focus on numbers au outrance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    I find this line of thinking to be needlessly reductionist, and too much focus on numbers au outrance.
    Is it though? I've lost count on the number of new players that are confused with the amount of effort spent on rolling up ability scores just to promptly forget about them.
    "No. the modifier goes in the big box and the ability score goes in the small one because you don't need it until lv 15+."

    From a design standpoint it's high effort and low return besides it just being legacy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stoutstien View Post
    Is it though? I've lost count on the number of new players that are confused with the amount of effort spent on rolling up ability scores just to promptly forget about them.
    "No. the modifier goes in the big box and the ability score goes in the small one because you don't need it until lv 15+."

    From a design standpoint it's high effort and low return besides it just being legacy.
    I think this is very true for systems where you use point buy. Yes technically the attribute->modifier mapping is many to one and not invertible, so there's an extra precision possible with Str scores that isn't with modifiers (str 10 and 11 characters have the same modifier but different carrying capacities, if you only use modifiers they have the same carrying capacity) but who cares?

    Like, if the chargen chapter just went "all your stats start at zero, here's how much it costs to raise them to +x, here's how many points you get back for a -x, you have Y points" I don't think much would be lost. You'd need to change a bunch of rules about carrying capacity and jumping and so on, but the end result would be functionally the same.

    For 5e in specific I guess the only problem would be half feats. Those would need to need buffed, or labeled as worth half an ASI so you get two, or something.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JellyPooga View Post
    It all just seems unnecessarily complicated, which is what puzzles me; are game designers not thinking about the system they're implementing? Are they just copy/pasting from what's familiar without considering what it is they're copying? It doesn't make any sense to me.
    Mostly it is tradition.

    But it is also the consequences of two desires :

    - Stats should be positive because negative numbers are ugly
    - A completely average person should have no modifiers for any task, only the extraordinary get ability modifiers for anything.

    now you won't necessarily think both of them are important.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stoutstien View Post
    Is it though? I've lost count on the number of new players that are confused with the amount of effort spent on rolling up ability scores just to promptly forget about them.
    "No. the modifier goes in the big box and the ability score goes in the small one because you don't need it until lv 15+."

    From a design standpoint it's high effort and low return besides it just being legacy.
    Maybe it's me, but mental addition and subtraction aren't hard.

    The point of the bell curved 4d6droplow, 3d6, or 2d6+x (or percentile dice) is to give a rough numerical model of how the make-believe person compares to the average person. This is still useful.

    As to single digit numbers and addition.
    Kids learn how to use dice in games like Monopoly and Parchese, if not sooner.
    I think that you are constructing a mountain out of a molehill there.
    I understand the complaint regarding how narrow the application of the d20 roll high system is in the first place. Way back when, using a "roll under" with a d20 for success was a way that ability checks were done mechanically. (AD&D 2e formalized this for non weapons proficiencies, but we'd been doing it for a long time before that). And the thief skill tables in Greyhawk.AD&D 1e were also roll under.
    Roll under is an OK approach.

    I am playing another "roll under" game (Mothership) and also another one (Star Trek RPG).
    Nobody has an oversized mental load for that either.

    Again, this stuff isn't hard.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    Maybe it's me, but mental addition and subtraction aren't hard. The point of the bell curved 4d6droplow, 3d6, or 2d6+x is to give a rough numerical model of how the make believe person compares to the average person. Kids learn how to use dice in games like monopoly and Parchese, if not sooner. I think that you are constructing a mountain out of a molehill there. But a part of the problem is the narrow application of the d20 system in the first place. Way back when, using a "roll under" with a d20 for success was a way that ability checks were done mechanically. (AD&D 2e formalized this for non weapons proficiencies, but we'd been doing it for a long time before that. And the thief skill tables in Greyhawk.AD&D 1e were also roll under. Roll under is an OK approach.

    I am playing another "roll under" game (Mothership) and also another one (Star Trek RPG) and Nobody has an oversized mental load for that either.

    Again, this stuff isn't that hard.
    I mean yes? In games where the mod and ability scores are used they are useful but are just baggage in systems that don't is basically the entire point.
    The bell curve isn't useful in D20 systems because the die is the too heavy in terms of impact so you end up needing larger modifiers here and smaller one there which isn't something the curve can provide. It's not intuitive at all past the surface layer of "I only have one resolution mechanic" when in reality you have a ton of different ones that are slightly different so it's even more confusing then having completely different models.

    A lot of modern D20 systems are even worse in that regard in that they don't weight the mods either so it's becomes a game of how much randomness can you chase out of the D20.
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    Mostly it is tradition.

    But it is also the consequences of two desires :

    - Stats should be positive because negative numbers are ugly
    - A completely average person should have no modifiers for any task, only the extraordinary get ability modifiers for anything.

    now you won't necessarily think both of them are important.
    I fail to see how either of those are compromised by either not using a derived modifier (just use higher TN's for roll-add) or by using a roll under mechanic (high stat is good by nature of being high and wanting to roll low). High stat is good under any of these systems and average joe has no extraordinary modifier or benefit whichever way. It's just a case of shifting goalposts/expectations to create a new "normal" instead of keeping the step of creating a derived modifier.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JellyPooga View Post
    I fail to see how either of those are compromised by either not using a derived modifier (just use higher TN's for roll-add) or by using a roll under mechanic (high stat is good by nature of being high and wanting to roll low). High stat is good under any of these systems and average joe has no extraordinary modifier or benefit whichever way. It's just a case of shifting goalposts/expectations to create a new "normal" instead of keeping the step of creating a derived modifier.
    There's a real virtue to keeping numbers small. Yes d20 + stat can be made more or less equivalent to d20 + modifier by changing the DCs, but if stats are centered at ten, then the default roll is going to be a sum of two two digit numbers 55% of the time. That's a lot slower for most people to compute than d20 + single digit roll, and as noted the outcome is the same. The only thing it gets you is stats having big numbers. The benefit of the modifier system is that it turns an easy to generate approximate normal distribution into small, easy to add numbers. If one is going to ditch stats and just use a single-stage attribute system, I'd just have everybody start at 0, with stats ranging from -5 to +5 being the sort of standard range, i.e. simply eliminate the current stats entirely and only use modifiers.
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    Default Re: Why Modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    The benefit of the modifier system is that it turns an easy to generate approximate normal distribution into small, easy to add numbers. If one is going to ditch stats and just use a single-stage attribute system, I'd just have everybody start at 0, with stats ranging from -5 to +5 being the sort of standard range, i.e. simply eliminate the current stats entirely and only use modifiers.
    Yeah. This is my plan. And it turns out you can get those normal distribution modifiers by just doing the same work up front and then discarding the bigger numbers entirely after calculating the modifier. And that's build time, not play time. All the same benefit, but the complexity is once, up front, not persistent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Yeah. This is my plan. And it turns out you can get those normal distribution modifiers by just doing the same work up front and then discarding the bigger numbers entirely after calculating the modifier. And that's build time, not play time. All the same benefit, but the complexity is once, up front, not persistent.
    Same. Went for -3 to +3 because I'm using a dice + stat +stat as the base formula. Stuff like skills and prof don't add direct value to the total so at most its adding 4 single digit numbers. Want to do a backflip off a roof onto the back of a moving horse? Finesse + presence +die roll. This we there is a huge array of possible combos but is also very quicky to decide what to use. Lot easier to map an action as a relationship between 2 groups than trying to make everything fit in the boxes.
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