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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Improving Ability Scores

So, when I talked about ability drain, I mentioned improving ability scores as well. This is because I have an idea that is almost, but not quite, the same mechanic as the ability drain mechanic I presented there.

First: You only get to improve your score once through mundane training. Period. If you can find a Manual of Improvement, or a magic throne that improves your ability, or a ring of wishes, that’s different. But vigorous weight training is going to build your muscle strength one time only, although it might grant superficial improvements, like better-looking muscles.

The cost per month is 400 GP for equipment, training texts, health supplements, and the like. At the end of every month, roll 3d6: if this is higher than your current score, that’s it, you’re done; your new score is the result you rolled. So: training might get you an enormous jump in ability, or it might just get you a single point.

If the die roll isn't better than your current score, you can keep training. You can also study under a teacher; teachers cost extra (whatever the teacher or the reaction roll decides,) but you roll 4d6 instead of 3d6 … assuming the teacher isn’t a fraud. Rolls above 18 raise your score to 18 max.
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  1. Damn, teachers are SUPER useful! You sure that shouldn't be scaled back a bit; maybe 4d6 drop lowest?

    1. You want to REMOVE something that compels players to go on a qquest/negotiate with an NPC?

    2. No, just thought it should be less potent. I guess that depends on how abilities work in your game, though, but there's still the comparison to magic. This would have to be an exceptional kind of teacher; not just some guy you can find in a major city, but the Grand Master of Flowers you have to climb a mountain just to find (never mind convincing him you're even worthy of his training)

  2. Sorry for the thread necromancy, but I was thinking perhaps you roll 3d6, and if the roll exceeds your current stat you increase that stat by one. That way, you get a benefit, but not something that makes your characters move so quickly to having major pluses.

    Also, I like the idea of using the same roll if you have a teacher where you can drop the lowest and get the same increase of 1, but if the roll with dropping the lowest and the second lowest are both higher than your current stat you get an increase of 2; this has the added benefit of never helping you get a second point if your score is twelve or higher.

    (For example, Derthel the Dullard has an intelligence of 6 and goes on a crash course of literacy with a local bookseller and scribe who agrees to take him under his tutelage for a month for a hefty fee and the recovery of some rare manuscripts from the witch-wight's tomb. The DM determines that at Derthel's low level of intellectual achievement that this NPC can serve as a teacher, and Derthel's player rolls 4d6 after a month of intense instruction.

    Derthel's rolls are 5, 3, 2 and 1. Dropping the lowest, his total is ten, so he gains a point of intelligence. However, also dropping the 2 and 1, the roll total is still eight, and he gains a second point of intelligence due to the teaching. He ends up with an intelligence score of 8.

    Derthel is a bit brighter, but now he has to match his wits against the horrible in search of some books. Let's hope he learned enough to pick the right ones out of the witch-wight's extensive library!)

    1. For the record, the teacher mechanic I suggest is not 4d4 drop lowest, but a straight-up 4d6 roll. With an average roll of 14, it's going to raise a score up to bonus level most of the time. And I don't mind rapid advancement; in fact, I kind of like the idea that Wizzbang the Wizard could train Int but only increase from 13 to 14, while Dultar the Dullard increases his Int 6 to Int 16 ... crazy jumps like that are funny and also have an impact on the game world, complete with gossip ("That moron became a genius in one month!") and possible envy sowing discord between characters.

      Since I'm not using Greyhawk/AD&D-style bonuses, but the simpler Men & Magic bonuses, that may impact my willingness to go with a system that allows amazing improvement. But it's more than that: rerolling a stat instead of allowing a more Runequest-y slow and steady improvement means that scores like 17 and 18 are still a matter of pure chance, rather than something you can get by persistence, 1 point at a time. The whole point-by-point thing makes it more of a grind, something everyone should do when they have the gold to optimize their stats, while a once-time-only random increase means it's more of an event, part of a character's adventures.