In 5E, everybody’s numbers are lower

August 26, 2014 at 10:00 am
filed under Roleplaying
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In 5E, the highest you can start with, before racial bonuses, is 15. You can see this in the Basic Rules. There are two reasons.

The first reason is that 4E effectively gave you 32 points by giving you 22 and starting you out with 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 8. 5E gives you 27 points and six 8s.

The other reason is this:

Using this method, 15 is the highest ability score you can end up with, before applying racial increases.

To refresh your memory, in 4E you could go as high as 20 (+5!) if you went for a stat block with a leading 18. Or you could have two 18s if you had two 16s. Now the highest you can get is 17.

There are a few implications, some more obvious than others:

Humans make this interesting since they get +1 to all ability scores. The stat block 15, 13, 13, 11, 11, 10 becomes 16, 14, 14, 12, 12, 11.

A quick check suggests that this is very similar to 3E, just on the cusp of “tough hero.”

Of a piece

So what else is different?

Look at some of the magic items in the DMG basic rules. Gauntlets of Ogre Power set your Str to 19, which isn’t even that impressive. A spell like Bull’s Strength now “just” grants advantage on Str checks.

A fighter with chainmail (AC 16) can get to AC 19 if they use a shield and sacrifice a more interesting fighting style just to get +1 AC. For reference’s sake, a Stone Golem (CR 10), only gets +10 to hit. A troll (CR 5) gets +7.

Not only are stat bonuses small compared to 3E and 4E, as far as I can tell they stay relatively low. Attributes can’t exceed 20. Proficiency bonuses max out at six (6!), at level 17.

As far as I can tell, tagged bonuses (“enhancement bonus”) are gone entirely. That’s telling: the main reason it was necessary was because there were so many similar bonuses floating around.

All in all the numeric system strikes me as very, very clean. Stats matter more and they’re simultaneously lower. Instead of inflating numbers, you add more interesting mechanics. It’s the difference between telling and showing.

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