I know this topic has been appearing a lot lately in our community and even saw someone post their take on decoupling ability scores and race/ancestry. That isn’t what I explicitly am attempting to do in this quick little 5-page document — instead I’m trying to mimic the design goal Pathfinder 2e took in its character creation that I really enjoyed: making as many choices as possible be impactful to the character. To me, a system like this provides more agency to the players as they build characters with more unique ancestry/class/background combinations.
- No standard array – all ability scores start at 10 and go up
- Ability boosts increase a score by 2 with free boosts throughout each step providing more flexibility
- Ancestries provide three boosts with most having two locked in and one free
- Classes provide one locked in boost and one free boost
- Backgrounds provide a partially locked in boost with one free boost
- Additional four free boosts that allow for slightly stronger characters, but not OP
- Option for when you do want to roll for ability scores instead of default base of 10
There are some “butterfly effects” to this kind of change that I talk about on page 5 but I know some folks won’t get there, but might like to discuss so I’ll post them here for easy access:
Gaming tables that use these alternative rules will end up having starting characters with a smidge more power than those that don’t, chiefly because a character’s main class ability will often end up being the max allowed 18, giving a bonus of +4 to those abilities. Most characters out of the PHB will have their max be 17 (+3), so it’s worth keeping this in mind DMs. I personally don’t see this as an actual issue, as I actually prefer to have strong PCs when I run games.
Another inadvertent consequence of these rules is making the choice between an ASI or feat at Level 4 a little more difficult. In these alternative rules, no ability score is an odd number only one way from an ability score bonus increase, so you would have to use the ASI to get a bonus increase. Most popular feats allow a +1 bonus to one ability score and a powerful mechanical ability like the Weapon Master feat from the PHB. I again don’t recommend changing anything for a few reasons: one, feats are technically an optional rule though I think many tables do use it, and two I believe this isn’t necessarily a bad thing — if anything, it gives even more agency to the player because taking an ASI instead of a feat doesn’t “feel bad” if one of their abilities doesn’t actually get a modifier increase.