dex is primary for most weapons tho. irl that is. maybe not maces in a sense? i know very little about them specifically. but everything else. the game goes by the tolkien logic of intricate-looking weapons meaning smoother frame, and larger weapons meaning big muscles, and it's just not reflective of the real world. past a certain point, strength has very little relevance. but the realism thing is less relevant in a world where we're playing tolkien world. it's just sad that so many tropes are difficult to properly mechanically access.
in regards to house rules... i'm not sure, honestly. i guess we may have differing ideas of what it entails. there's a difference of making a dm fiat call for an ability check over a single idea a player has, and restructuring character progression for how attributes function for a class. the base game's character paths are quite linear compared to other systems i've played. that's all there is to it.
I'm not convinced. At all. Definitely intrigued, and open. And certainly as a kid totally in the dex camp for realism. But... two people are of master skill level, but one is quite flexible and the other is very strong. Who is fighting better with sword/spear/axe/pike/halberd/mace/two-handed sword/hammer/quarter(not bo)staff/ ? The goal isn't "touch" to score a point, the goal is to crack bones and sever limbs, through armor, getting past shields, knocking away their weapon, standing firm against impact.
I know we have one simulation of armor + rapier + touch points giving @Ajidica
a strong opinion that this is experience level first, dex second, and str third. D&D agrees since 3rd edition. Switch to a similarly heavy knight sword and D&D now disagrees. But I think to conversations with my brother, one who practices HEMA, the longsword. HEMA is interesting because it's jujitsu + swording. It's a full contact wrestling + striking sport. He will argue it makes sense that strength over dex for sword fighting.
I am inclined to agree. I did some judo, and judo is billed as a total finesse sport: a small person can use the large person's momentum against them. You don't need much strength, and technique is king. But in reality, strength is an incredible advantage. Technique (class experience level) is obviously first, but strength is what gives the edge. I was the most inflexible person in my judo cohort, and roughly equally skilled, but far from the worst.
Ability types in D&D are already a bit ludicrous. Your fast twitch reflexes are trained physically by weight lifting, particularly going fast and heavy. This is how you strengthen your brain-muscle connection via your nervous system. Fast twitch reflexes can also be trained mentally by competitive mouse clicking. Is that level of reflex not consistent with D&D wisdom? Is dexterity a mental trait or a physical one? Flexibility and reflexes are pretty different. To the extent that constitution isn't strength, how much of it is simply willpower and keeping your focus and therefore your health? Why aren't willpower saves constitution based? And for that matter, should the brave fighter really be worse than the studious wizard at resisting fear? Sometimes, but by default?
It helps to understand what the stats meant in the earlier editions. They were only smoothed to 2 points for 1 bonus in 3rd edition, codifying that those were the stats and disregarding their deeper complexities. Strength only gave a +1 to hit with str of 17 and 18. Now 18 was a funny case because fighters with 18 got an extra 1d100 strength category. 18/01 - 18/50 still only gave a +1 to hit. 18/51-99 gave a +2. Only 18/00 (100) gave a +3. But the damage bonus started at ... heck I'll just show you
This is on the back of enemies having often same or better armor classes than in 5e. (But much lower hp). As the recommended stat generation method of first and second edition (same str table) is 4d6 drop the lowest, the expected distribution is 16, 14, 13, 12, 10, 9. You now have super duper strong characters with 16 strength, but still not strong enough to get a +hit bonus. 100% of their to-hit advantage then comes from experience level. 0% comes from strength, until they get gauntlets of ogre power, giving them the strength of a 10 foot monstrous giant, for whom their power delivers a +3 to hit. But by this point their THAC0 is double or more than effect.
Ultimately we agree, it's not a simulation of realism but a ruleset to engender a certain, say, mode of fantasy. The only risk is when the rules defy verisimilitude. For @AmazonQueen
, a lack of damage reduction gradient from armor does that. It does not for me, the outcome between a binary and a stepped adjustment can be statistically the same on average, but one plays faster, with exciting variance. But I do also enjoy damage reduction rules as well.
As to your second point, if you want your fighter to have his talent augmented by intelligence instead of strength, say he studied anatomy and martial arts and his experience level is just practicing his brilliant thoughts, it is quite trivial for the DM to rule that your class be that variant. Same for any stat, even some of the weirder ones like constitution or charisma. If there's enough other PCs to create a balance complaint, just trade some power for it.
But ultimately, D&D works better a little uneven than it does smoothed out. Everyone having a specially named 1d12 + 5 attack starting at first level is bland. (At that level, better to say generic words like "I attack" than "I use firebolt" every turn. Drawing attention to a brand without substance increases tedium). But each character having their time to shine is exciting.