I started to look at DW to see how well the move and general rules work out in real life. Looks good, but one thing bothers me: Why do the stats need a 3-18 value if 9 out of 10 moves and/or rules only care about the modifier (or so it seems from my reading of the rulebook so far)? The main uses for raw stats appear to be Encumbrance and HP computation, the latter being done only on character creation.

So here's the main question

If we assume I would be fine to house rule or eyeball the Encumbrance move to not require raw Strength and that I would use the raw stat once at character creation to compute HP:

What other problems would arise from removing the raw stat? Or what does the game need those stats for?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ [Related] What are ability scores (not modifiers) used for? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2020 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie thanks for the extra reading \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Feb 11, 2020 at 23:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've edited out your secondary question about whether (raw) ability scores are used in other PbtA engine games, as it's totally distinct from this question. I'd suggest asking it as a separate question if you're interested in the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Feb 12, 2020 at 0:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast You're right, but it didn't felt substancial enough to me. 7sidedDie's link is close enough to an answer to this question for me thought \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Feb 12, 2020 at 1:20

3 Answers 3


You need to manage level-ups somehow

Most PbtA games use simple "+2, +1, +1, 0, -1" array. In terms of the game mechanics, it is completely unnecessary to have another stats set, separated from these modifiers. The main reason DW has its 3-18 values for stats is the D&D equivoque.

There are two cases when we use the stat itself, and not the modifier:

  • Character generation
  • Character level-up

The Level Up move states:

Choose one of your stats and increase it by 1 (this may change your modifier)

If you get rid of stats, you have to find a way for players to increase their HP and modifiers somehow.

Encumbrance uses STR, not strength

Load property is defined as constant plus STR (modifier), not strength (stat):

you load is 9+Str

So you still use the modifier for triggering the Encumbrance move.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point, I focussed too much on lvl1. But that raises another point, do the other PbtA games also get a bonus increase on lvl up? \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Feb 11, 2020 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 nope, they mostly only add new moves \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Feb 11, 2020 at 13:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 Most PBTA games don't have levels per se, they have a little "advancement" box that says stuff like "add a new move" or "add +1 to a stat (max 2 or 3)" and you get to check off an option when you fill up your little XP bar. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    Feb 11, 2020 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aah, got it, comment gone. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2020 at 15:36
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Notable about the DW ability scheme is that it often takes two level-ups spent on the same ability score before the modifier increases. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2020 at 16:27

The only cost is some math.

The actual way ability scores correspond to bonuses is a reference to how they were treated in Basic D&D, as summed up in this table from the Rules Cyclopedia:

\begin{array} {|r|r|}\hline Ability Score & Adjustment \\ \hline 2-3 & -3 \\ \hline 4-5 & -2 \\ \hline 6-8 & -1 \\ \hline 9-12 & 0 \\ \hline 13-15 & +1 \\ \hline 16-17 & +2 \\ \hline 18 & +3 \\ \hline \end{array}

If you didn't get the reference it's probably not going to mean anything to your playgroup, so no loss there. Advancement from the standard array can be uneven if you go at a rate of one raw score point a level, but moving over to bonus advancement of +1 every even level (max +3) won't be too far off.

Then, whenever something needs your raw score, use a value of 10 + twice the bonus. It'll be a little bit off at higher levels, but a hit point or two here and there shouldn't sink you.

Very little third-party content makes use of the raw ability scores, but I've found them useful for homebrew when I need "something like hitpoints" - a value to spend out of that refreshes on a camp-to-camp basis. Prestige classes spending reserves of muscle or spellpower and rolling +points spent, a magic item that taxes the thief's dexterity to let him sleight things into another dimension, a curse that eats at your soul (but how big is your soul?), that sort of thing. Admittedly it's just because I like making them useful for things.

...and knowing when to use it.

It's probably an argument in favor of moving to pure bonuses that you are not the first person I've seen to make that mistake about encumbrance. Load is on the character playbooks as +STR, which means plus the strength bonus, not plus the entire strength score. The other raw score that gets used is actually Charisma, as a discount in coin on some common social services.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The third party references are pretty interesting. And the encumbrance comment is indeed telling \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Feb 11, 2020 at 23:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I accepted another answer because it had higher votes, but yours get my upvote for the additionnal info concerning replacing it and the homebrew material \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Feb 13, 2020 at 0:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 The green check is for you, the querent, to indicate which answer was most useful to you (and thus you can change your mind on it). Everyone else can already see which answer has the most up votes. Of course, you're welcome to up vote any answers you like. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 29, 2020 at 4:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Now that I come back to it.I should have said I accepted the other one because it felt like a better answer in term of the main question. But this one touches some points of curiosity I had that were edited out of the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Feb 29, 2020 at 12:54

The raw stats are mainly a form of aesthetic continuity with Dungeons & Dragons. Since the game uses Power by the Apocalypse math for almost all of the moves, it's the "modifier" that's more important in play.

However, note the Level Up move:

  • Choose one of your stats and increase it by 1 (this may change your modifier). Changing your Constitution increases your maximum and current HP. Ability scores can’t go higher than 18.

In "normal" PBTA terms, your starting stat array is basically just +2, +1, +1, +0, +0, -1. But advancement is uneven in ways that are difficult to replicate perfectly with just the -3 to +3 structure. (Several D&D editions have a similar relationship between raising stats at level-up and their derived modifier, though they don't give you a boost at every level.)

The main explanation I'd give to confused newbies is "these are your characters' D&D stats, to give you a small impression of what they'd be like in D&D."

If you're actively hacking the game in significant ways, the "raw stats" are pretty easy to remove (World of Dungeons did, for instance). For example, you can replace the Level-Up mechanic with "+1 stat modifier every 'even' level (max +3)," if pressed, at the cost of a few quirks like making it harder for players to "round out" their low stats cheaply.

If you're just making small tweaks, however, consider this: they're already in the text and part of the character sheet, and 'faithfully' replacing the raw-stat math in all those places would actually be pretty clunky.


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