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Old 09-10-2017, 12:13 AM   #1 (permalink)
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The new game system: discussions on attributes and skills.

So I think I have my dice figured out, more or less. So lets talk about character attributes, those numbers that describe a character's natural talents and abilities such as strength, intelligence, and so on. I've played systems that had as many as 18 different attributes to as few as zero (all rolls based on skills instead). Most are between 6 and 9 different attributes.

So what's your ideal number of attributes?

A lot of attributes allows you to more precisely define your character, but fewer leads to faster character creation and simpler game play, a design philosophy central to this new system.

One problem with fewer simpler attribute systems is that you do get illogical overlaps. The good old Dexterity stat comes to mind. Often used for everything from back flips to aiming a gun. Well I'm personally considered a damn good shot, but I couldn't do a back flip to save my life, so it never made sense to lump those skills together under one stat.

On the flip side, too many attributes and it can be hard to tell them apart. I've lost track of all the hours we've spent arguing the difference between Intelligence and Wisdom.

So, lets start listing off the must haves...

Strength, alternative names Body, Muscle, Brawn, etc.
The classic "how much can I lift" stat. That question invariably comes up in nearly every game at some point, so I do consider it quite important.

Endurance, alternative names Stamina, Resistance, Constitution, etc.
The classic "how far can I run" stat. Also often used to determine how much damage a character can sustain. I haven't figured out which damage system I'm going to use, so I'm not sure how important this will be towards that quite yet.

Intelligence, alternative names Mind, IQ, Brains, etc.
Another classic, the "how smart am I" stat. The danger is a player attempting to play a character smarter than they are. That leads to a lot of GM hand holding. Lets then say it isn't exactly how smart they are, but how well they apply those smarts to particular skills. Sort of tie it in with Wisdom and Experience as it were. That way you can have the character that's book smart but not street smart (and vice-versa), or the ever fun Idiot Savant, who acts dumb as a bag of hammers until you ask them a technical question, all based on what skills they apply the Intelligence too. We'll come back to this.

Aim, alternative names Hand Eye Coordination, Spacial Awareness, Accuracy, etc.
This is a deviation from the classic set, but something I feel strongly about. A separate attribute for "putting a thing where you intend to put it". Shooting a gun, driving a car, cutting the red wire without touching the blue wire, etc. I'm leaning towards a modern setting, with plenty of gun play, so this stat will get a lot of use.

Dexterity, alternative names Flexibility, Agility, Balance, etc.
Back to classics, the sneaking/dancing/back flipping stat. Also can be applied to martial arts, dodging, and used as a general measurement of how flexible the character is.

Perception, alternative names Awareness, Intuition, Alertness, etc.
One that a lot of classic systems seem to ignore, but the more I play the more I find the need for it. Your basic "can I find that thing" stat.

Am I missing anything?


As for skills, I have an interesting idea. So assuming I use the above attributes, and lets say they're all have a range of 1 to 10, but a normal human maxes out at 7 (got to give a little room for unnatural stuff), I'll define a skill as the training and experience to apply an attribute to the task.

So, a person may have a great Aim, but if they've never lifted a gun before in their life they don't have the training necessary to apply that Aim. No skill, straight d20 roll, firing wild.

Now if they've had a little training they can apply the most logical attribute to their roll. So Guns rank 1, the roll is now d20+Aim.

With more training they can apply additional attributes to their roll, call it Guns rank 2. So a military trained shooter has trained to hold that gun more steady with out needing something to rest the rifle on, so the roll is now d20+Aim+Strength. A trained Police SWAT team member may specialize in fast target acquisition and fast firing, so d20+Aim+Dexterity. A long range marksman may factor in wind speed and range, so d20+Aim+Perception.

Now a fully trained Sniper would be Guns rank 3, and apply three attributes to their roll, say d20+Aim+Perception+Intelligence, as they're literally doing trigonometry to factor the precise trajectory of the bullet.

Of course as the ranks go up the skill becomes more specialized. When the player attempts something similar but difference than their specialization they can't apply all the ranks they have. So that Sniper can't apply Intelligence if they can't take the time to do the needed calculations.

Now a good think about this system is that you don't really need a big list of existing skills, you can make them up on the fly. The downside is that the GM has to watch for min-maxing and abusive powergaming. If all their rank 2 skills happen to line up with their two highest attributes then something has probably gone wrong. Someone with Medicine rank 2 should never be adding Intelligence + Strength for example.
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