Sunday, January 20, 2019

8 Abilities - 6, 3, or 4 Ability Scores?

D&D-style games traditionally have 6 ability scores, but those 6 scores actually represent 8 different abilities. Those 8 abilities, in turn, are simply the combination of three different dichotomies - physical vs mentalforce vs grace, and attack vs defend.
   
This is something I've thought about before, but my immediate inspiration for writing about it now is something that Jack from Tales of the Grotesque & Dungeonesque posted on Google Plus, and the outpouring of responses and ideas he received in return. I'm going to miss G+. The conversations that happen there can only happen because of all the people who are there. And for now, at least, the conversations that happen there inspire me more than conversations happening anywhere else.
   
Recognizing the 8 underlying abilities does a couple things. First, it points to the direct parallels between D&D's mental and physical ability scores - Charisma, for example, is mental Strength; Intelligence is mental Dexterity. Second, seeing the underlying abilities gives us some insight into the ways the can be re-combined to make a smaller number of scores. (Jack argues, and I agree with him, that it's more interesting to have a smaller number of important scores than to have a larger number of unimportant scores - which is why I wouldn't suggest expanding out to 8 ability scores, although you certainly could if you want to.)
   
 
The 8 Underlying Abilities
Physical force attack - The ability to interact with objects on a large scale. Force open stuck doors, batter down brick walls, bend iron bars, break chains, lift weights, pull yourself up, climb. Break things, smash things, crush things, throw things. Overcome obstacles by flattening them, get through defenses by overwhelming them. Be the hammer. Do damage by hitting hard.
    
Physical grace attack - The ability to interact with objects on a fine scale. Pick the tumblers on a lock, disarm a trap, do tricks with your fingers, perform sleight of hand, disarm. Touch sensitive things without triggering them, manipulate one thing without affecting another, go around obstacles, get through small openings. Get behind them, out-flank them, out-maneuver. Aim well, be precise, find the hole in their defenses, slip through the crack in their armor. Be the scalpel. Do damage by striking in just the right spot.
   
Physical force defense - The ability to survive being hurt by being tougher than the thing that's hurting you. Endure extreme temperatures, remain unbowed by crushing weight, flex your muscles so they break the hand punching you, toughen your skin so it dulls the knife trying to cut through it. Be your own armor, be your own shield. Let their attacks hit you, break against you, wash over you. Survive poison, survive disease. Endure.
   
Physical grace defense - The ability to survive being hurt by avoiding the thing that's trying to hurt you altogether. Duck out of the way, dodge, deflect, riposte. Stay in the shadows so they can't see you, step quietly so they can't hear you. Stop short, jump back. Roll with punch, fall to the floor, slide out reach. Twist to escape their grasp. Move so their attack never touches you, move so that the force of the attack simply pushes you along in the direction you're already traveling. Take cover from the bomb blast, hide from the dragon's breath. Evade.
 
Mental force attack - The ability to affect the emotions of people an animals. Give a rousing speech, make a call to arms, impress them with your faith, show them the courage of your convictions, demonstrate the strength of your principles. Inspire, incite. Tell a story, sing a song, make them weep, make them thunder with applause, make the wicked cower at your feet. Make a good first impression. Calm an animal, train an animal. Cook a meal. Gain trust. Impress.
 
Mental grace attack - The ability to manipulate people and objects. Tell lies, wear disguises, negotiate contracts and sales. Deceive, defraud, trick, fool, feint, scam. Draw mazes, make puzzles, tell riddles, set traps. Ambush them, take them by surprise. Diagnose illness, forge documents, scribe scrolls. Uncover clues, unravel mysteries, decipher codes, translate and speak languages. Outwit.

Mental force defense - The ability to avoid having your emotions affected by hardening your heart. Don't be afraid, don't run away. Ignore compulsions and commands. Know history, remember family trees, understand loyalties and relationships, know your enemy, understand who they work for. Do things even though they're boring, chop firewood, fetch water, pick berries, make camp. Endure trauma, bear witness, hunt monsters, stare into the abyss, live to tell the tale, never forget. To thine own self be true. In a game with sanity loss, this would be the ability to witness horrible sights without going mad as a result.
 
Mental grace defense - The ability to avoid having your thoughts affected by looking in the right place, or by looking away at just the right time. Avoid ambushes and surprise, notice architecture, find hidden doors, search rooms, spot traps. Find tracks and follow them. Appraise the value of objects, discern lies. Search your own memories, remember details, recall lore. See the Medusa in the mirror. See through illusions. Out-think. In a game with sanity loss, this would be the ability to avoid looking at a maddening sight, even though it tempts you.
 
 
The Classic 6-Ability Division
D&D's 6 ability scores mostly take these abilities individually, but a couple of them double up. Strength represents physical force attack. Dexterity combines physical grace attack and physical grace defense. Constitution is the physical force defense. D&D's mental attributes are basically mirrors of the physical ones, but there's a slight asymmetry. Charisma combines both mental force attack and mental grace attack. Intelligence is mental grace defense. Wisdom is mental force defense. The broken symmetry, I think, is the result of the organic nature of the way D&D has grown over the years. Yes, in some moments it has been designed, but in-between those moments, it has simply grown by accretion.

There's nothing particularly wrong with this set-up, although as Jack notes on Google Plus, it does make Dexterity unusually important, especially in versions of the game where physical combat is more common or more important that social and/or skill challenges. Reducing the number of scores would make each attribute more important by making each ability do more work. Reducing the number of modifiers might also make them easier to use, even if they apply to a larger number of situations. It's easier to remember +1 on this, +2 on that, -2 on THAT, than it is to remember 6 or 8 different bonuses and penalties.
 
The other possible problem is their names. If terms like dexterity, constitution, and charisma were ever common outside of gaming, they certainly aren't anymore. DCC renames Dexterity as Agility and Constitution as Stamina. Personality replaces Charisma, and arguably adds mental force defense to its repertoire. The Luck attribute from DCC serves a little like a mental grace defense, but it's also something new, a kind of all-purpose defense against misfortune, as well as a resource that can be used up to improve any situation, like a generalized version of the specific forms of "Effort" in Numenera. When it comes to renaming, I also kind of like Daniel Davis's suggestion to call the abilities Puissance, Celerity, Obdurateness, Supercerebrality, Perspicacity, and Pulchritudinousness, if only because it leans into Gygax's old timey naming conventions and does him one better, and because they're so silly I find them kind of charming.
 
 
Two Possible 3-Ability Divisions
In the 3.0 ruleset, D&D introduced new Fortitude, Reflex, and Willpower saving throws, representing essentially the physical force defense, physical grace defense, and mental force defense. When other people have tried to simplify the D&D rules by reducing the number of ability scores, the most common reduction mirrors these saving throws.

Although they give them different names, both Into the Odd and Numenera make the same decisions to arrive at 3 ability scores. There's a physical force attribute (combining attack and defense), a physical grace attribute (combining attack and defense), and a single mental attribute (combining attack and defense, force and grace).
 
It feels worth pointing out that in the original version of D&D, Strength, Intelligence, and Wisdom didn't represent what they do now. They only things they modified were the XP you received from playing certain classes, which means that they were more like measures of Fighting-Man-ness, Magic-User-ness, and Cleric-ness, respectively, than they were like the abilities that familiar to us using those same names today. And that means, when you take those three away, that in playing OD&D, you're left with only 3 real ability scores, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma, which is just what you get in I2TO and Numenera.

 
There was another suggestion though, that came up on Jack's G+ thread a couple times. Adam Thornton, Tim Other, Paolo Greco, Jay Murphy, and Joe Coo all spoke up to call for something like Mind, Body, Soul as their preferred division. Paolo uses Physique, Craft, and Spirit in his Adventure Fantasy Game. There's also something similar in Torchbearer and Mouse Guard (and possibly in other games based on Burning Wheel), which use Will, Health, and Nature.
 
What all these other approaches have in common is that they invert the Fort/Ref/Will division by creating a single physical attribute (force and grace, attack and defense) while allowing for 2 mental ability scores. Mind (AFG's Craft) is mental grace (attack and defense) while Soul (AFG's Spirit) is mental force (attack and defense).
   
In Torchbearer and Mouse Guard, however, I think the division is different. If I understand correctly, Will is a single mental attribute (combining force and grace, attack and defense), while Nature, like DCC's Luck, is something else entirely, something new. It represents a certain self-ness, or you-ness, or perhaps species-ness (human-ness, elf-ness, dwarf-ness, or mouse-ness) of the character, something outside of the traditional abilities, that isn't represented by any of the traditional ability scores. Whether you call this Nature or Soul, I think, just depends on your preference ... or you could call it Alignment.
   
DG Chapman at the Graverobber's Guide proposes Attunement instead of Nature. Characters start with an Attunement score ranging from 1-4 depending on their race. If they receive a favor from a fairy, their score goes up by 1. If it reaches 7, they're so attuned to fairy-land that they go off and live there. I propose a similar idea to make Alignment an ability score. Roll 1d6 (or 1d4+1) for your starting alignment. 1-2 is Lawful, 3-4 is Neutral, and 5-6 is Chaotic. Over the course of your adventuring career, you can occasionally receive help from agents of elemental Law and Chaos to decrease or increase your Alignment score, respectively. As with Nature, if you ever drop to 0 or rise to 7, you cease to be a playable character and become an NPC Agent of Law or Agent of Chaos. Or follow DG Chapman's lead, and use the Seelie and Unseelie Fairy Courts instead of Law and Chaos.
 
 
Possible 4-Part Ability Scores ... and Beyond
Of the two possible 3-part ability scores, my own preference leans toward 2 physical, 1 mental - but if I were planning to write a set of rules with fewer ability scores, I think I might want 4. My current preference would be for a physical force ability (combining attack and defense), a physical grace ability (combining attack and defense), a mental attack ability (combining force and grace), and a mental defense ability (combining force and grace).
 
I recognize that I've paired the physical abilities differently than the mental abilities. I also recognize that some of the skills or abilities that I've assigned to each ability score differ somewhat from the way D&D assigned them - although in part, that's because I'm assigning them more systematically and all at once, while D&D's were assigned organically over time. After all, as I mentioned Strength, Intelligence, and Wisdom started out solely as XP modifiers for fighting-men, magic-users, and clerics. The 8 abilities / 6 scores system I've laid out wasn't anyone's initial plan, it's my interpretation of where we've ended up after years of adding on to that initial framework. (Which is probably why the physical and mental abilities are divided asymmetrically - someone might plan to have Dexterity and Intelligence mirror each other and encompass two abilities each, but I don't think anyone would decide to break symmetry by doubling up two un-matched ability scores like Dexterity and Charisma as part of a plan - I think that could only happen organically.)
 
I could see someone else wanting to make their 4 ability scores by creating a physical attack ability (combining force and grace) and a physical defense ability (combining force and grace) to match the way I've paired the mental abilities ... or a mental force ability (combining attack and defense) and a mental grace ability (combining attack and defense) to match the way I paired the physical attributes ... or, like me, they could prefer mixed doubles, just the opposite of the way I arranged them. Shadow of the Demon Lord also uses 4 ability scores, Strength, Agility, Intellect, and Will, as does John Stater's Tales of the Space Princess, Strength, Dexterity, Mentality, and Knowledge. One thing that breaking down the original ability scores into 8 abilities based on 3 dichotomies does is let me imagine other possible ways to combine them, and thus other possible ability scores that can be derived from the original abilities.
 
I find the creation of new abilities like Nature and Luck to be interesting, because they represent truly new additions to an old system. Over the years, I've seen other abilities, but none that have felt nearly as appropriate. Comeliness is supposed to measure physical beauty, but that feels useless to note if it's divorced from Charisma, from the ability to influence the emotions of others. I've also seen Social Standing and Wealth represented by ability scores. That's okay, I guess, although for Social Standing, I'd rather know my character's specific pre-adventuring occupation, and have a sense of which tier of society that job fits into. (I also think there should be fewer than 18 tiers, and I also also think that there's little point in playing a truly high-caste character who already possesses real wealth and worldly power - why would someone who can command armies go knock over a goblin's liquor store or carjack an orc?)

For Wealth, if an ability score is going to replace actually counting gold and treasure, I think it would be more appropriate to have just the modifier, not the score, and I think the range should probably be more restricted than the usual range of ability modifiers. (Replacing found treasure with a Wealth attribute implies plenty of other changes about the way you play as well, so this is certainly not a one-size-fits-all-games kind of idea, notable, both D20 Modern and Torchbearer include abstract Wealth mechanics. There's probably an argument to be made in favor of dispensing with ability scores entirely and just using modifiers, as is done in Mutants & Masterminds.)

But Nature and Luck are different, and they point out the fact that although I can imagine a simple system that encompasses all the original ability scores, skills, and modifiers, and maps well onto 3- and 4-attribute rule system, the original abilities don't exhaust the all the possible abilities you could want your character to have. In particular, Nature, Luck, and the way Numenera uses ability scores as pools of points that are both spent to pay for abilities and lost due to damage suggest new ways of using ability scores that go far beyond what original D&D envisioned, and far beyond the 8-ability system I've laid out here.

40 comments:

  1. I've been tinkering around with the idea of "Composure" as a attribute. Which is basically the "keep you're shit together" stat. Rolled either to prevent the character from freaking out and to keep a straight face when they lie. So, it's oddly mental force-defense and grace-attack according to you're categorization. In a few Into the Odd offshoots I've seen Discipline and Empathy as the mental attributes, which would probably map to mental-defense and mental-attack respectfully.

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    1. "Composure" sounds very proper ... a bit like "Sanity" but for a game of manners?

      It's funny, but you're right, "Empathy" sounds like an "attack" ability. By attack though I really just mean the ability to affect something else. The "attack" can be cheering up someone who's sad, for example.

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  2. I liked the world of darkness approach to stats, they had 9 arranged in 3x3. With one axis being mental, social and physical, and the other is force, finesse and defence. So finnese and social is manipulation, mental defence is not loosing your shit. At least that is how I understood it working. There was something quite elegant about how it worked.

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    1. Interesting! I never knew so many people liked "mind, body, spirit" as their division of abilities. Even when I say I want 4 ability scores, I'm not sure the way I think of the two mental ones maps onto the distinction of "mind vs spirit."

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  3. I bumped into this article via Old School RPG Planet. I'm well outside the usual design group but I've been playing and thinking about rules since the 70s. I'm currently working on 16 basic skills similar to FATE approaches that give a Power, Grace, Observation and Resistance value to the realms of Physical, Mental, Social, and Spiritual power.
    What you are doing is very interesting and make a lot of sense. One of my own goals is to allow conflict in realms outside the physical. Are you heading in that direction? I look forward to seeing what you are doing.

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    1. Glad you found me! I'm not, to be honest, entirely sure of what I'm going to do in the future. At the moment I'm just trying to make sense of what other people have done in the past.

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  4. Excellent article as always. Quick correction: Into The Odd uses STR, DEX and WIL/CHA, not CON.

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    1. You're referring to the part where I compare it to OD&D, right? What I meant is that both rulesets end up with physical force, physical grace, and mental as their 3 abilities. I gave the OD&D names, but my point was that they used the same division, not that they actually called them the same things.

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    2. Ah, I see. Yes the division is consistent throughout. You've given me much to think about, as usual!

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    3. Great analysis as always, Anne!

      It's probably not a coincidence that Into the Odd's 3 abilities end up mapping so well to OD&D's 3 "non-class" abilities. If I remember correctly, Into the Odd was born out of Chris attempting to reduce OD&D to its simplest form. "Into the OD&D" originally. Remove classes, remove the "class-ness" abilities, and you're left with just the three.

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  5. I'm fond of Shadow of the Demon Lord's split of 4: Strength, Agility, Intellect, Will. DCC Luck is something I want to see in more places, as is replacing Charisma with Personality (since the lazy execution is "high charisma means you look good" which is silly)

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    1. I'm fond of Luck. The fact that you need it for Luck checks means that you don't (generally) just treat it like a piggy bank of points to add on to every roll you miss. It could easily be a 7th attribute in any D&D-like system.

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  6. Interestingly enough, that Attunement thing came from a game I started writing then scrapped for parts, in which the ability scores were exactly the 8 you define here - albeit with different names

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    1. It's funny how we seem to think alike in a few areas. On the other hand, I'd never have invented the "cafe princess" and I'm very glad that you did!

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  7. Also worth looking at the original WFRP, which has "cool" (similar to the composure idea mentioned above).

    To really go crazy, look at Gygax's Mythus attributes which has some of the elements distinguishing grace from power.

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    1. I haven't played WFRP, but I should look at it sometime.

      I swear I also remember reading some D&D2 material in the 90s where someone proposed two "sub-abilities" for each of the 6 scores. I think maybe each pair had to add up to the original ability score, or had to average to it or something like that. And I think these were in addition to the original 6, not instead of them, so I guess the target audience was people who wanted 18 ability scores!

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  8. Charisma is Luck, we don't need a separate ability for it. Charisma is not your physical beauty, although it can be; instead it is your strength of personality.

    If you are charismatic, reality bends in your favour, because your strength of personality, i.e. willpower, makes it happen.

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    1. I certainly think of Charisma as entirely mental, not having anything to do with someone's appearance.

      I tend to think of Charisma as affecting social situations more than magical ones, but Luck is fun to play with in DCC, if calling it Charisma gets it into your game, then I'm glad you're enjoying it.

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  9. Hi,

    1. a link to the original G+ article would be useful. A link to the author's blog doesn't make it any easier to find the article, and googling for it didn't find it.

    2. ICE's HARP has 8 stats, 4 physical and 4 mental: Strength (St), Agility (Ag), Constitution (Co), Quickness (Qu), Self Discipline (SD), Reasoning (Re), Intuition (In), and Presence (Pr). Almost all skills and abilities use the bonuses (or penalties) for 2 stats - e.g. most combat uses St+Ag, spell-casting uses SD plus one of the other mental stats, sneaking around uses SD+Ag. IIRC, the defense bonus and resistance rolls are the only ones that use the bonus from a single stat (doubled: DB uses Qu+Qu, Stamina RR uses Co+Co, Magic RR uses In+In, Will RR uses Pr+Pr).

    ICE's Rolemaster has 10 stats: Agility (Ag), Constitution (Co), Memory (Me), Reasoning (Re), Self Discipline (SD), Empathy (Em), Intuition (In), Presence (Pr), Quickness (Qu), Strength (St). I guess HARP's designer decided that Memory and Empathy could be subsumed into the other mental stats. Skills and abilities use the bonuses of 2 or even 3 stats (averaged, not added as in HARP). e.g. Melee attacks mostly use St/St/Ag, Missile attacks use St/Ag/Ag.

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    1. The original G+ thread isn't set to "public" so you couldn't see it even with a link. Sorry.

      I don't think I've ever heard of HARP or Rolemaster before. The bonuses from multiple abilities thing sounds intense, I hope you get to write them down in advance rather than trying to calculate averages mid-combat.

      Encounter Critical also takes a "more-is-more" approach to ability scores and skills. I think it might be loosely based on an earlier d100 game system.

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    2. Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) and Rolemaster (RM) have been around since the late 70s/early 80s. RM started out as Arms Law (gritty combat with gruesome - and gruesomely amusing - criticals), Spell Law (non-Vancian magic for D&D is only the barest beginnings of how to describe this) and other supplements for D&D. It became a stand-alone system later. Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) was based on RM, and was designed as a simplified RM-lite (intended to lead in to the full RM once players were past the limits of MERP).

      ICE's High Adventure Role Playing (HARP) was published in 2003 or 2004. Some people think it's another RM-lite, but it's not. It's a ground-up re-implementation of the same game mechanics, designed to be streamlined and faster to play (kind of like how 5e is a re-design of D&D that actually made D&D worth playing again). Also has a very nice scalable spell system.

      Everything in RM and HARP is d100-based, and everything is resolved with a few variations of the same basic mechanic: roll d100, add bonuses, subtract penalties, 101 or higher is success. Combat is the most common variation on that - anything above 0 that wasn't a fumble is a "hit" but low rolls do very little damage while high rolls incur more damage and possible criticals.

      and yeah, nobody calculates their skill etc bonuses on the fly. Much less hassle to pre-calculate them at character creation, and adjust as needed when you level up (or acquire an item or something which changes your bonus). It's not difficult but can be a bit tedious - there are character creation pdfs and spreadsheets that auto-calculate stuff.

      I don't recall hearing of Encounter Critical before but google tells me it's a hoax/parody by the author of Risus. Looks amusing.

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  10. sorry, slight correction: HARP's "In" stat is "Insight", not "Intuition"...was getting confused with RM for that one.

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  11. Microlight D20 also breaks the attributes down to Strength, Dexterity, and Mind
    https://donjon.bin.sh/m20/Microlite20.pdf

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    1. It's a popular way of dividing things up! And I think it makes sense. You use your physical attributes more often than your mental ones, so you want more detail where you're paying the most attention, and can get away with less in the places you look less often.

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  12. When I run Into the Odd, CHA doesn't include Mental Defense. Functionally this means that when I run games, mental defense comes from either:
    -Character background, wherein I freely hand out any knowledge that their character might plausibly know.
    -Player ability to actually come up with creative solutions.

    And I know some GMs actually require persuasive arguments to succeed at convincing someone in character. I don't personally like that approach, but let's run with the idea and stretch it to absurd lengths.

    So Physical Force checks now require a certain number of pullups on a pullup bar. And Physical Grace Checks involve breaking out the Jenga tower.

    Or mix it around. Attacking requires you to hurl you character's miniature at the enemy's. (The dungeoncrawl boardgame Catacombs actually works this way.) The passion you put into a speech is determined by the effort you put into exercise. Your luck is determined by how convincingly you argue that the universe should go your way. Your ability to solve puzzles is up to the dice roll. And dodging an attack requires you to solve a math puzzle in real life.

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    1. that doesn't go nearly far enough. why ignore magic and combat? to succeed in casting a spell in game, you actually have to cast one in real life where the GM can see it. And for combat, you should actually have to hit an orc or kobold - since they're rare in the real world, substitution is permitted (e.g. neighbours can stand in for orcs, and neighbours' children for kobolds and goblins depending on size & age. give them a sword or dagger and have at it).

      If you can't do it in real life then you can't do it in game.

      Apply this principle with common sense for other skills. e.g. if pick-pocketing money, you can attempt it on any regular real-world citizen you see. but if you want to steal the keys from a guard, you have to pick-pocket an actual police officer or armed security guard. as i said, use common sense.

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    2. Betty, I think I've heard of people both pulling Jenga tiles and building towers from scratch, with failure in both cases resulting from the tower collapsing.

      The thing I'm not sure of is if those rules include ability scores at all? If you move the decision-making-mechanic onto player skill, is there any role left for ability scores? Perhaps especially, if you move the decision-making-mechanic away from "randomly generate numbers using dice" then what is there for an ability modifier to do? If there's no number to modify, then do you need an ability score at all?

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    3. That's what they do in Dread, Anne! Very cool game.

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    4. I was being more than a bit facetious with the proposed mechanisms, but I think there is an underlying point. That different stats don't necessarily need to operate under the exact same mechanisms.

      You touched on this in your post with the saving throws from D&D 3.0

      To reign it in a bit, here's a rough idea for a differentiated system that still uses ability scores and dice for each stat, but does so in different ways.

      Physical force: Keep as is in standard D&D. Big number = smash.

      Physical grace: substitute for some sort of push-your-luck style dice minigame where your modifier affects the ease of the game.

      Mental attack: A sort of bluffing game akin to Liar's Dice? Higher modifer = you get to see some of the DM's hidden information.

      Mental defense: Similar to the Discern Realities move from Dungeon World. Each encounter, you can ask the GM a certain number of questions depending on the result of your roll. They have to answer honestly.

      I'm doubtful whether the added diversity of gameplay modes would justify the complexity burden, but I might try to hammer out a set of playtest rules for this idea.

      For normal games, I'll probably just stick to the ItO system of three saving throws + player skill for mental defense.

      Thanks for systematizing the concept of ability scores. It really helped me to grok why ItO feels different from D&D.

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    5. Betty, I could imagine trying to run a D&D-ish game using multiple non-dice/mini-game resolution systems (well, I can imagine being interested in playing if someone else ran it, anyway). I can see the appeal of wanting your character's success or failure at a task to have something to do with your own skill as a person, and not just the random chance of the dice roll.

      I feel like, the way my mind works, it would make more sense if there was a different minigame for each kind of challenge (combat, skill use, saving throw) rather than a different kind of challenge for each ability score.

      The challenge, I think, would be coming up with good mini-games that are still quick, easy, and fun. After all, anyone can roll dice, it takes just a second, and there's a kind of sensory pleasure that comes from doing it.

      Which isn't to say that it's impossible, just that it's a tricky design dilemma, and one that probably borrows more from board games, puzzle/activity books, and party games than it does from other RPGs.

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    6. Sorry, I didn't think I *was* being rude. I certainly didn't intend to be. I was having a bit of fun with the idea. "dry" humour doesn't work so well when it's liberally sprinkled with smilies, you have to go over the top with absurdity (and risk Poe's law) to make it obvious you're joking. Well, attempt to make it obvious, anyway as that clearly didn't work this time.

      It has always struck me as odd that there's a line of argument with RPGs that certain things (like combat) are considered OK to resolve according by skill level and dice-rolls but that it's totally wrong to do that for other things (like making a speech) - most people are no more capable in real-life of making a speech than they are of killing an orc with a sword. A big part of the point of RPGs is that you get to pretend to do things you can't or wouldn't do in real life, like casting a spell or swinging a sword or calming an angry mob with a song.

      IMO, both player ability AND skill+dice are important, but it's unfair to penalise a player because they're no good in real-life at whatever it is they're pretending to do in a game.

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  13. Oh. I just remembered an interesting implementation of Wealth as a stat.

    I once played a game called Tales of the Arabian Nights. It's a sort of cross between choose-your-own-adventure and boardgame.

    Wealth has 7 values ranging from 'Beggar' to 'Fabulous'. And it's main mechanical function is to determine your travel speed. Higher wealth increases the speed at which you can travel by sea. But past a certain point, it decreases your land speed, as you just have too much stuff.

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  14. Love this breakdown and the history behind certain arrays. Thanks!

    One thing that has weighed on me a lot as I decide which stats to put in a game is whether to include any mental stats at all that could be replaced by player behavior. Like, I find myself favoring Into the Odd’s “Willpower” over Numenera’s “Intellect” because cleverness seems potentially up to the player. I don’t want players to have to hold back from making good suggestions for tactics or investigation because they’re playing “low intellect” characters. When I start limiting it like that, I find myself without many stat options at all, which isn’t always a bad thing.

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  15. "And for now, at least, the conversations that happen there inspire me more than conversations happening anywhere else."

    That may be because you're not in the OSR Discord. Okay, maybe not. I prefer the slower pace of G+ too. That said, most of the most interesting discussions I've seen in the last year were there. There's a lot more noise to sort through though.

    It's very searchable.consider searching for keywords and then discussing with those who were part of the original conversation instead of having a routine of actively participating.

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  16. Another thought: dexterity and charisma seem very common words. People I talk to (who don't game) use them and I read/hear in media pretty regularly. I agree about constitution being somewhat obscure.

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  17. I thought somehow, that defensive ability scores was a relatively new thing to replace saving throws. I'm not well-versed in the old stuff enough to know

    Regardless, here's another sort of division, all attack: Strength, Dexterity, Academics, Allure. Allure is for recruiting/hiring and for modifying reaction rolls.

    All defensive rolls belong to aa unified saving throw stat (classes sometimes grant a bonus, a la Swords and Wizardry.)

    Great article. I love the way you describe the structure and various alternatives. Thanks.

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    1. Allure may need a different name. I want it to suggest a powerful first impression and leadership, not attractiveness. Of course it's charisma, but that word comes with undesirable mechanical expectations attached.

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  18. Excellent post.

    One thing I have noticed about certain sites is that, even though they have tons of content, the site looks great and the headlines are eye catching is that the material is simply filler. It’s downright unreadable. You can forget it 6 seconds after you read it. Not the case with your post though, really enjoyed it reading it and it held my attention all the way through! Keep it up.

    Read my Latest Post

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