1/2/14 05:14 pm - D&D, Mental vs Physical
I've been playing D&D Next recently, and every once in a while am struct by the issue of mental vs physical.
The problem, when you get down to it, is the mental dump stat.
Basically? Everyone dumps something mental. Worse, you're penalized for -not- dumping mental stats.
The core problem is that you don't get that much from mental stats, compared to physical.
I mean, all stats in Next are effective defenses, which does help. But the physical stats all provide secondary benefits, (and thus weaknesses if you dump them), while the mental stats never do, so each build point you spend on a mental stat that isn't part of one of your core abilities is something you could spend on a physical stat that would help you more, if not in the way you want your character to act.
Strength is the least bad -- but strength protects you from grappling, and affects your carrying capacity. Of course, it also determines melee to-hit and damage (and thus whether monsters run past you whenever they want), but that's less of an issue given Dex melee weapons.
Con is the uber-stat. No experienced player ever dumps Con unless they're willing to take on extreme risk, since your Con has a massive effect on your hit points, and thus survivability. At least they've acknowleged it by having no skills based on Con. (but I believe that concentration checks are still Con-based if you have to make them)
And Dex is rather superb, as it determines Inititative (which can win or lose combats almost by itself), Armor Class (the defense of defenses), ranged to-hit/damage, and melee to-hit/damage for light melee weapons.
But of the mental stats, only Int has a secondary benefit beyond defenses and skills: bonus languages. Charisma is great if you want to talk to people, and Wis is great if you want perception and to understand people--but every skill is useful, so that's not really that much help.
The biggest problem there isn't, of course, casters; casters are reasonably balanced with big power sources, assuming you're spending lots of points on mental stats and not so many on physical ones (although casters -do- have a strong incentive to push piles of points into physicals rather than the mental ones they're not gaining casting from). But physical types are -really- penalized if they want to be smart, or perceptive, or charismatic, since they're giving up stuff extremely useful for their core competency for what amounts to fringe benefits. And casters end up being one-not mental characters, either smart -or- perceptive, -or- charismatic (or at best two out of three), since if you invest in all three you end up not having enough Dex and Con to survive.
Thinking about it, I think they either need to make the mental stats more valuable (have Charisma provide a bonus to aiding your comerades, and/or a bonus to whatever "helper" cohorts you pick up whether they be familiars, mounts, or 3rd edition-style followers; have Wisdom provide some kind of reaction or something--although the current approach of having Wisdom provide hidden benefits of surprise avoidance, defending against the worst attacks, etc isn't awful, and maybe improving the Int benefits to be any kind of non-skill proficiency, for instance), or make mental stats cheaper (going to a (1/2,1/2, 1/2, 1/2, 1, 2, 2 curve to buy up from the starting stat of 8, perhaps, rather than the current curve of 1,1,1,1,1,2,3), saving casters 3 points, but also making it much cheaper to not dumb mental stats relative to physical ones.
The former possiblity is more complex, but means having a simpler, single stat curve. The latter is simpler, but does mean that mental-focused characters would be a little more well rounded than they are now.
But the current curve shapes the game in ways that I, at least, am not fond of. 3rd edition had similar problems, but at least had hidden benefits (the Leadership feat, particularly) to taking off-stat bonsues. 4th edition at least had different classes favor different stats, so if you wanted to make a high-Wisdom fighter-type you could play an Avenger, etc, plus ways to move your basic attack around for -some- variety. But Next is very thin here, so and it would be nice to not have the system shape the characters so consistently and directly; I'd rather make "do I make my Fighter a better talker? Or more perceptive or smarter?" More of a choice, and not just for counter-optimizers.
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