The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

7 Attributes That Aren’t in D&D – But Could Be

When D&D started out there was barely any use for some of the attributes they did include, so having even more would have been insane. But over the years other game makers have come up with some good ideas for base attributes, and yet D&D has always stuck with the same 6 (with the obvious exception of the short lived experiment that was Comeliness).

Now I’m not say that Wizards need to get busy and plan to double the number of attributes in the next edition; I get that the attributes are iconic, and there would be some fans screaming bloody murder if anyone tampered with them. But from a rules perspective, there just are some things that should be attributes, and others that would be really cool attributes.

Attributes make the man.

1. Speed

For some reason every human in the world in every edition of D&D walks and runs at exactly the same speed. Even characters of other races are either identical or very similar in speed to humans. The only thing that can slow you down is carrying ungodly amounts of weight. The only thing that can speed you up is magic, or being part of the right class.

Why not just make speed an attribute? For 4E you could assume everyone has a base speed of 6 adjusted by the bonus or penalty of their speed attribute.

2. Social Standing

Over the years D&D has had a lot of small scale experiments on rules for social standing. But the one thing I have never seen is a social standing rule that makes social class an attribute. Admittedly, done wrong this could give power gamers a new dump stat, but done correctly it could have important ongoing effects on a character. (Just as social standing ought to in a pseudo medieval society)

3. Appearance

As mentioned earlier, there was a well-known, though short lived foray into making a character’s appearance a stat – aka comeliness. And I will be the first to say that I always hated comeliness and was glad to see TSR drop it in 2nd edition. But I think that had more to do with the fact the rules surrounding it were just awful. Other games since then have shown there is a right way to handle an attribute that reflects beauty – perhaps Wizards could draw from their experience.

4. Willpower

The idea of will power has long been very importance to D&D; enchantments have been part of the game since the very beginning. But somehow will power has always been crammed into odd places; saving throws and bonuses aren’t necessarily generated in a manner that gives characters who ought to have the best will power the best chances.

In recent editions high wisdom has grant a bonus to the Will saving throw, which makes much less sense than some people think. Wizards states, and through many rules demonstrates, that wisdom is common sense. Having common sense doesn’t have much to do with having a strong will. In fact, there are many situations where common sense is in opposition to having a strong will.

So why not break the two apart and give will power its own attribute?

5. Perception

Just like will power, perception has gotten lumped into wisdom in recent rules, though admittedly, the case for perception being a result of wisdom is somewhat stronger.

The thing is (in 4E) perception and insight are by far the two most important skills. Yet somehow they are both based off the same attribute. It would make far more sense to eliminate those skills and create a new mechanic for those all-important perception and insight checks.

6. Power

D&D is the epitome of a level based game, and as such many mechanics rely directly on level, when in other games additional mechanics might make things more interesting. Many games have some sort of attribute to represent a natural talent with magic.

In earlier editions of D&D such an attribute would have been a great replacement for level based spells per day; instead of every magic user in the world getting the exact same number of spells at a given level, there could have been some variety.

In 4E a power attribute could be used to give PCs a change to recharge in the same way many monsters do.

Unusual plant, or new attribute raising magic item?

7. Luck

There are the occasional times in D&D rules that certain classes or races get what amounts to a chance to reroll a bad roll. A luck attribute could work the same but in either direction; a player could either reroll a bad roll or force an opponent to reroll a good roll. Of course a bad luck attribute might have the opposite effects…

What Else?

That’s my thoughts for attributes that could be interesting to add to D&D, if Wizards were so inclined. But did I miss anything? Let me know.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

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November 17, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , ,

8 Comments »

  1. Big fan of luck and perception as stats, but I like having Willpower and Wisdom combined – in fact, I find it easiest to describe Wisdom to players as a combination of common sense and the force of will to apply it.

    Speed has been on the list forever – with many of the 80’s D&D knock offs having it as a core stat.

    Social Standing takes the right campaign setting for it to work well. In the wrong setting it is a dump-stat, and in many games social standing varies rapidly as you rise in power. In my own B/X games, characters leap up the social ladder as they approach level 9 when they are expected to be involved in endeavours like building strongholds, founding thieves’ guilds and so on. In such a campaign setting, it would be a stat that changes rapidly as the character levels up, making it quite the oddity compared to the other stats in the game.

    Appearance I’m glad to live without in D&D. It works for some games, and not for others. I’m a fan of CyberPunk where appearance is a very functional stat, but again it remains very campaign-dependent and potentially another dumpstat. Charisma handles the job nicely for me.

    Power is an interesting beast – especially in D&D where the key stats for each spellcaster are different. Making Power a separate stat would make all spellcasters multi-attribute dependent as they would need to keep their primary spellcasting stat high, but also their power stat. If the primary spellcasting attribute is relegated to a secondary position with Power replacing it for the spellcasters, it makes them much more similar, as it becomes a key stat for every spellcasting class.

    What’s missing?

    If we are splitting up stats like Wisdom into multiple abilities, then the important ones to chop up are the big physical ones like Dexterity. As it stands Dex handles everything agility and motor reflex related. One stat for fine work (like Tech in Cyberpunk) could be pulled out of it for things like picking locks and pockets and working with traps, leaving Dexterity for more combat-based operations.

    Comment by dysonlogos | November 17, 2010 | Reply

    • “with many of the 80′s D&D knock offs having it as a core stat”

      Those games are where I drew many items on this list from.

      I definitely agree that fine and gross motor skills have little bearing on each other.

      Comment by The Red DM | November 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. Chutzpah – I loved the fact that Toon had this stat. It represented how pushy or overt your character was. A high chutzpah meant that you could basically Fast Talk or Bluff your way out of anything.

    Comment by sniderman | November 17, 2010 | Reply

    • I haven’t played Toon in forever; and yeah, chutzpah is one of many cool things about that game.

      Comment by The Red DM | November 17, 2010 | Reply

  3. I’m curious how the Power stat would work. Would it be the stat that is required to be able to cast a number of spells. For example a 1st level wizard with a Int of 18 (+4) and Power of 12 (+1) can only cast 1 first level spell? I’m thinking of 3.x / Pathfinder here for reference.

    Or would Power simply add to the number of spells that can be cast? A 1st level Wizard with an Int 18 and Power 12 can cast 3 1st level spells? (1 for wizard, 1 for having a high Int, and 1 for Power modifier.

    Also, would we require the prime casting stat and Power be handle some of the responsibility for casting spells? For example, a Wizard with an 18 Int can add +4 to the DC of his spells, but he needs at least an 11 Power to cast 1st level spells, 12 Power to cast 2nd level spells, and so on.

    Comment by yong kyosunim | November 17, 2010 | Reply

    • I was thinking it might replace the base number, not eliminate the bonus (for INT or whatever). So in 3.x you would want to have at least 12 Power before even thinking about being a spell caster.

      For your example, a 1st level wizard with 18 INT and 12 POW would get 2 1st level spells per day. If the stats were reversed he would get 5 spells per day.

      Comment by The Red DM | November 17, 2010 | Reply

  4. Thinking about Power also had me wonder about Luck. How would a Luck score with its modifier work? Obviously, if one PC had a Luck with a positive modifier, he would be considered lucky while one with a negative modifier would be considered unlucky. But how would it come into play that would be consistent? In some other systems, I’ve seen it based totally on DM fiat which kind of made it a useless stat, particularly if the DM forgets to track it. Another form was to make the score in the form of action points. That drives players to get that score up, but how to deal with those who have negative modifiers?

    If you had a positive modifier, then maybe a rule where should you roll a natural 1, you can reroll the die and take the 2nd result regardless. If you had a negative modifier, then anytime you roll a natural 20, you must reroll the die and take the 2nd result. You would be required to do this a number of times per game day, so if you had a Luck score of 6 with a -2 penalty, you’ll have to reroll the first 2 nat 20’s and if you had a 14 with a +2 bonus, you can reroll the first 2 nat 1’s.

    Another mechanic is to complement it with action points, but set them to be on par with the worse penalty that someone can get with having a 0 Luck score (-5). Everyone starts out with 5 action points modified by their Luck score, so in a 3-18 range that can be 1 to 9 action points.

    Lastly, the Luck score can be used to modify some other function like AC, saving throws, or attack rolls. Someone with a high luck score is going have a better AC or better saves or better attack rolls. This is actually a good mechanic to implement for those DM who don’t like to have too much magic in the campaign, because you have an ability score that provides those bonuses / modifiers instead of a magic item doing it.

    Comment by yong kyosunim | November 17, 2010 | Reply

  5. You will note that every game out there that has POWER doesn’t have a Wisdom equivalent, however.

    I was just reading a game the other night that specifically linked the two stats for those more familiar with D&D.

    Comment by dysonlogos | November 26, 2010 | Reply


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