Tuesday, March 28, 2017

5e vs Lotfp: Ability Scores

I first experienced Dungeons and Dragons when I was 18 and that was way back in 2009. I played 3.5 with a group of strangers, most of which were double my age, and the experience was awkward. Eventually I stopped playing as college loomed around the corner.

Skip ahead a few years to 2014. 5th edition was just released and everyone at my local game shop was riding the hype train. I eventually joined a group, got sucked into the referee role and have been riding that wave ever since.

Skip ahead further. I meet a grognard that wondered into the comic shop I was running games at and I'm introduced into the OSR. We become friends, he introduces me to Lamentations of the Flame Princess and I'm convinced it's the best thing ever.

5th edition gets shelved and LotFP becomes the game I've run the most in the past years.

However lately I've been thinking that there's not that big of a difference between 5th edition and a OSR clone like LotFP. This post's goal is to compare and contrast 5e with LotFP and hopefully prove that the two aren't that different mechanically.

So let's get started!

Ability Scores
Probably one of the biggest differences between the two games.

Of course each game has the traditional six scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. I'm going to ignore the methods for generating these scores since that's the first thing to get houseruled most of the time.

LotFP makes an effort to note that the player determines a character's judgement, wits, and personality. Not the score itself. This is interesting because it goes against the "play with your character sheet" style.
Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution effect combat directly, providing more damage, health, and better initiative.
Intelligence and Wisdom effect magic and non-magic saving throws respectively. They also effect magic busywork for Magic-Users and Clerics respectively.
Meanwhile Charisma effects hiring retainers.
The ceiling is 18 in lotfp, which results in a max modifier of +3.

5e's ability scores take a more significant approach.
First of all the ceiling is 20 (30 if magically aided) which results in a max modifier of +5 (+10).
Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution still do what they do best—increase damage, health, and initiative.
Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom (the so called mental ability scores) are much more significant to magic-user classes, providing extra spells, higher DCs, and higher attack bonuses.
5th edition claims score does effect character. "Your Character's Abilities (pg. 14 phb) provides a list comparing characteristics of low scores with high scores.

Overall there's not a huge difference between functionality here. The physical ability scores are almost identical between the two games. The mental scores have the same goal of aiding magic-using classes, but accomplish it in different ways. LotFP cuts down on time and cost for magic busywork while 5e makes casters more powerful.

The biggest difference between the two is how actual ability scores' modifiers are determined. Lotfp keeps it minimal (if not nonexistent) while 5e doesn't really care if a character is walking around with a +5. I certainly don't think 5e reaches "bloated" levels with its modifiers.

Ability Scores seem like an afterthought in LotFP while they seem to be the crux of 5e's system. Most importantly it effects skills, which encourages a "roll the die to solve all your problems" style of play, which isn't necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. Some players just want to sit down and roll funky polyhedrons. They don't want to have to strategize and roleplay all the time. (I've certainly had my off days.) So why not just let the dice decide?

Ultimately, ability scores in LotFP and 5e aren't that different in gameplay. But the method with which modifiers are determined say a lot of each game. LotFP seems to care less about ability scores, while 5e relies on them significantly in gameplay.

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