A few newer games that use base ability scores are using a mechanic where your race and/or your class actually adjust your randomly generated/point-bought ability scores. Races have traditionally played this role, but for some reason, classes haven’t.
So, when thinking about different races, it’s easy classical to define that race by what makes them different than being human – and that almost always tends to relate to the core ability scores. They’re like a human, but stronger, or like a human but wiser. A race is something you are – and your ability scores are often the primary vehicle for enumerating “what you are.”
Classes, on the other hand, have traditionally been about what you do. So your class defines the abilities you gain as you advance in experience and training. I think because of this dichotomy, classes haven’t traditionally been tapped with the duty of adjusting starting ability scores.
Still, I think I like this new direction. If you close your eyes and think about a fighter, or a thief, or a wizard, you’re probably not just envisioning a set of skills, you’re likely also thinking about a strong, a quick, or a smart hero. From a play balance and design perspective, it recognizes that if I pick a fighter, I probably want to play a strong character. Since we know up front in the design that strength is probably a pretty important characteristic for a fighter, it’s nice to help make sure new fighters aren’t too gimped from the get-go and help give the player what they’re envisioning when they decided to play that type of character.
Another nice thing this can do is help represent the years of training that went on before a character became a first level thief. When you start thinking about multi-classing, and a character with 8 years of apprenticeship in the local thieves guild starts dabbling in magic, why would they be just as good at each. That extra bit of ability score for your first level class can help, if only a bit, differentiate your first class with all that background from any class switches over time.
So, I think I’ll probably give each class a bonus point to a statistic that’s primary to that class. That ability will either be chosen for you, or I’ll give the player a choice between two (like Strength OR Vitality) for a Barbarian.