ACKS Ability Scores

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For a campaign rule I am developing, I wanted to identify the ability score most likely to be given short shrift by a player when creating an ACKS character. I had a notion based on play experience, but I thought I’d specifically survey the rules (as written) to see where each ability score comes into play. Having done this, I thought I’d share my results below. The only things I’ve excluded are which ability scores are requisites for what classes, and the related experience adjustment. Page references are to ACKS core, Player’s Companion (PC) or Domains at War: Campaigns (D@W:C). Domains at War: Battles does not include any references not in Campaigns.

o melee attack throws and damage rolls
o Open Doors throws (including breaking manacles, PC p. 152)
o maximum encumbrance
o break through web spell

o General proficiencies
o languages
o literacy (INT 9+)
o arcane spell repertoire (including starting arcane spells)
o magic research throws
o maximum number of magic research assistants
o arcane ritual spells known
o crossbreed/undead special abilities
o in conjunction with Familiar, Familiar’s Intelligence
o shaman totem animal’s Intelligence (halved)
o charm person new saving throw

o Officer Strategic Ability (D@W:C p. 20)

o saving throws caused by spells or magic items
o Tampering with Mortality roll
o divine ritual spells known
o see through Disguise
o in conjunction with Righteous Turning, turning throw and number of HD turned

o Officer Strategic Ability (D@W:C p. 20)

o missile weapon attack throws
o Armor Class
o Initiative
o dungeon chase saving throw versus Paralysis (p. 100)
o in conjunction with Weapon Finesse, one-handed melee weapon attack throws

o hit points (up to 9th level)
o rounds running before exhaustion (p. 101)
o Mortal Wounds roll
o Death from Old Age (p. 249)
o in conjunction with Endurance, force march additional day(s)

o reaction rolls (a variety of applications in the rules, including the Crime and Punishment table, p. 138, and the Results of Interrogation table, D@W:C p. 62)
o maximum number of henchmen
o morale
o domain morale

o Officer Leadership Ability (D@W:C p. 20)
o Officer Morale Modifier (D@W:C p. 20; also see Assassination hijink, D@W:C p. 63)

Combining the survey above with my play experience, I perceive the following. Charisma may be at least the second most important ability score for every character class. Intelligence is so critical to a mage (or similar class), the mage should likely sacrifice every other ability score for Intelligence (if that rule, p. 17, is being used). Strength is similarly important to a cleaving class, however, the character who aspires to survive and lead on the battlefield needs every other ability score point.

As an aside, additional spells involving other ability scores in reasonable ways, similarly to charm person and web are interesting to think about.

What ability score do you believe is most likely to be given short shrift by a player when creating an ACKS character? I’m not revealing my choice at this time (although I’m happy my choice dovetails nicely with the campaign rule I’m developing).

What campaign rules related to using ability scores in play do you use?

I’m not sure which ability score you’re saying should be (or is, in fact) given short shrift by players. My own guess would be Wisdom, as it tends to have little impact on most characters. In any ACKS game with Henchmen, I’d argue that Charisma is the most important, although this is less apparent at low levels. Personally, I’d only lower Charisma from a bonus (i.e. 13+) if I could get the 10% XP bonus from a high Prime Requisite (along with the attendant ability score bonus) in a Class that doesn’t depend on Charisma (i.e. not a Bard). The only exception might be a straight Mage, where lack of abilities other than spellcasting make a large Repertoire immensely useful (and fun, frankly).

Very interesting post, by the way. Thanks for taking the time to collate all that.

Doesn’t wisdom also give a bonus to Tampering with Mortality rolls? (state of soul or something like that) Still a pretty weak stat IMO. I’ve been considering a NetHack-style prayer mechanic, using Wisdom as a modifier to something like a reaction roll when requesting divine deliverance.

Charisma, Dexterity, and Constitution are good for everyone all the time, regardless of class. Cha gives you more and loyal henchmen and retainers and helps avoid combats with reaction rolls (can become ridiculously good when stacked with Diplomacy), Dex and Con keep you alive.

I rate Intelligence > Strength > Wisdom in terms of general applicability. Even if it’s not your prime req, an extra general proficiency is good for pretty much anyone. Strength’s obviously critical for melee classes, but its secondary bonuses to breaking and carrying are rarely useful. Wisdom’s bonuses are either very situational or negligible, even for clerics.

We’ve had the secondary Strength bonus come up quite a bit in our current campaign, including some near-life or death situations. I rate Strength pretty highly, personally. Another General Proficiency is good, but only so good - the best Proficiencies are Class Proficiencies, and can’t be obtained with higher Intelligence. Obviously, these things are going to be relatively dependant on the nature of the campaign…

Also, while I think Wisdom is the weakest stat, I don’t think it’s terrible. If it were possible to make it a real dump stat (say, if you were rolling 3d6, place as desired), there’s a reasonably strong negative feedback from poor Spell and Magic Item saves. Sure, the bonuses for Wisdom may not be the best ever, but failing those saves all the time gets painful.

This is especially true if you’re playing a class who already has trouble with any particular save.

Trying to save vs Blast as a mage is already not great. Having a Wisdom penalty just makes you even more vulnerable to Fireballs or similar effects.

Oh, sure. I’m talking primarily about rearranging points between stats >9 rather than hard dumpstats with penalties.

Wisdom hands down!
I would only consider righteous turning if I rolled very very high wisdom for a cleric or priestess. As long as you have at least 9 wisdom and a higher intelligence it also doesn’t matter for the Strategic Ability.
Spell saves are far to few in most cases to warrant pushing for wisdom bonuses.

Wisdom doesn’t simply apply to Save versus Spells, but to Saving Throws against spells, whether those are versus Blast, Death, Spells, or whatever. It’s when you save against the effects of any spell. It’s really quite useful, and painful if you have a penalty. Oh, and same thing with saves from the effects of Magic Items.

jedavis said “Doesn’t wisdom also give a bonus to Tampering with Mortality rolls?”

Thanks! I’ve updated my original post(s) to include that.

If anyone else spots anything missing, please let me know.

Wisdom is hard to value because in a system where saves are bounded, it becomes progressively more powerful with higher level advancement. At first level, where your save is something like 16+, the value of a +2 vs -2 is almost meaningless. Who cares if you fail a save 85% of the time or 65% of the time, when you are making only one save a session against an adept casting cause light wounds?

At high levels and with powerful gear, where your save is around 5+, the value of wisdom becomes much greater. Then it’s a factor-of-three difference between saving 10% of the time and saving 30% of the time, and spells are powerful and frequent enough that the penalties for failure are severe.

Wisdom is almost meaningless for survival between level 1 and 4, but absolutely crucial for survival between levels 11 and 14.

By contrast, a lot of other stats become progressively less valuable at higher levels. That +1 to damage from strength is increasing your sword’s damage output by nearly 20% at first level, but only by around 7% once you already have a +10 to damage from class and enchantment. Ditto for dexterity, which coupled with plate and a shield can make a low-level character all but invincible against goblins and kobolds, but matters less and less as the real threats start coming from magic that ignores AC.

One thing that would take it right out of the dumpster category… change max henchmen to be based off of wisdom. You can get them into your employ with charisma, but to keep them you need to be able to understand them.

Along the same lines, I’d say that intelligence is important at low levels (where the extra proficiencies and repertoire slots feel proportionally massive – three spells versus one!), but less important at high levels. That makes it an “early stat” like strength and dexterity. Only magical researchers will care much about it when advancing beyond name level.

Charisma, as noted above, is like wisdom in the way it completely dominates the military and economic end game. When I tried playing a high-level domain campaign, everyone wanted to play the charisma prime-req classes just so they could drain other attributes into it.

Only constitution has a fairly flat value across all levels.

Eh, I disagree with this. There may not be a save against Cause Light Wounds, but there is against, Fear, Charm, Hold Person, and pretty much every damage spell going. I don’t think a percentage of total chance is the right way to look at it; you say, “Who cares?” when the Save is 16+, but if your Character makes the Save-versus-Blast-for-half by 1 point and that lets them survive, the bonus made all the difference that matters. There are certain ways where higher level spells versus higher level PCs are more important, seeing as some of the effects are more nasty (e.g. Magic Jar instead of Charm Person), but even at low levels you’re often saving to avoid death. What could be more important? That one or two points from Wisdom could be the difference between making the Save, and rolling up a new character.

Hm, interesting way of looking at it. I’m not sure I agree completely with your evaluations of Str and Dex (class+enchantment damage bonus should cap at +8 rather than +10, and every extra point of damage counts for putting you across thresholds for unit-scale damage in Domans at War. Likewise dex fails to save you from Sleep at low levels in the same way as it does at high levels), but I’m very willing to concede that wisdom grows more important as your saves get better (the same is sort of true of Dex - the more AC you have, the better each extra point of AC becomes). Perhaps my evaluation’s favoring of early-game stats comes in part from the fact that most of the time in most (certainly of my) games is spent at low levels.

Eh, I feel like Int remains relevant even for non-arcanists at domain levels, at the very least for strategic ability. Getting three ranks of military strategy is also pretty expensive, and int can help. Also the extra repertoire remaines powerful, as swapping spells becomes more expensive and time-consuming.

I agree that Cha comes into its full power at high levels, but it’s really no slouch at low levels either. Reaction roll bonuses to avoid combats (especially when stacked with Diplomacy, Intimidate, or Mystic Aura) can save tons of resources, and having more and higher-morale henchmen is great when diplomacy fails.

I would expect Con’s value to fall off a little at high levels, since it stops providing HP after name level, no?

I agree with the sentiment that Wisdom is the weakest of the ability scores.

In my most recent games of ACKS, I have been experimenting with tweaks to Wisdom to bring it up to par with the other ability scores.

One rule that seems to work well is to say that ALL saving throws are adjusted by Wisdom. Having Wisdom affect all saving throws puts it on par with Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution in terms of its effect on a core game mechanic.

The in-world context for the rule is that Wisdom represents divine favor and as such helps you survive (or permits you to die).

Having a harder mechanic in place for Wisdom representing connection to the divine would also help with one of my quibbles, about how Wisdom is the prime requisite of clerics despite not doing anything meaningful for them. (It affects ritual spells known, and can affect turning with Righteous Turning, but a 1st-level cleric-type without that proficiency doesn’t actually care about their prime requisite.)

On the other hand, man, dwarven craftpriest with this change and Divine Blessing succeeds in every saving throw ever :stuck_out_tongue: (At first level with +2 Wis and Divine Blessing, their worst save is 9+. At max level, their worst save is 5+, and they only have two saves that are worse than 2+; Blast at 5+ and Spells at 3+.)

I like it; nice and simple, universally relevant.

Yeah, neat idea for a house rule.