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Choosing and defining the Stats

Started by ksarith, February 18, 2004, 05:53:47 AM

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I am new to the Forge and was searching for something.  Supprisingly enough, I was unable to locate it.  For a while I have been developing a RPG and feel like it is actually starting to get somewhere, but feel it is time to start reevaluating the major aspects to be certain that each choice was correct.  

I am trying to define and choose stats... which ones are required in making a game well structured but still simple to understand?  So far I am working with the Definition:

A stat is a statistical characteristic of an entity from which other measurements are derived.  "Other measurements" consisting of Damage Capacity, Skills, Essence/Life force, speed/movement...

So far the stats I am working with are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Perception, Intelligence, Knowledge, WillPower, and Charisma.  I have considered the option of splitting dex into reflex and finess, but feel this would provide only to complicate the game.  Also have been wondering if it is possible to segment Charisma into Popularity and stuff into skills based on intelligence, knowledge, and perception (Have Appearence left over in that case).  I have speed as being derived from Str and Dex.

I am attempting to keep the stats as universal standards for all entities.(things that characters can interact with that have the capability to react to the characters and make decisions.)

Pardon the Spelling and Broad Simplification,
Ksarith  is the location of the file and "chaos system 2.12 operation.doc" is the file.  I posted this in theory because this is more angled to the theory of game mechanics, than the actual mechanics themselves.
Not just another A@@hole.
<Generic Mud Addict>


I'll providionally agree with your definition of stats.  The only quibble I would raise regarding the stats you then go on to produce is that the seem to emerge from a universalist ethic in which the point is to objectively describe something in a sort of scientifically neutral way.  As if the stats were some sort of entry in secret dossier, if you get what I mean.

An alternative approach would be to tie the stats to the purpose of the game rather than taking them from an analysis of the entities in the game.  It may be that the game is never actually going to ask how much you can lift or use a strength modifier to damage; in which case, the existance of a strangth stat may not be necessary, even though it appears necessary to completely describe the character.

I find that conceptualising what my stats will describe, cover, is a major influence on subsequent system design, because by establishinmg those things that are to be systematically represented, you imply they will be systematically tested.  So sometimes it might be worth thinking about *what you want to test*, in actual play, and come back to stat definition afterwards.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci


Further to that suggestion, bear in mind that even if you leave, say, strength as unrated, due to it being unimportant for the vast majority of play, you can still allow characters to have, say, "Exceptionally Strong" or "Exceptionally Weak" as traits. It allows players to define the character they want, without every character having to have an explicit strength stat, frex.
Pete Darby


You'll find a recent couple of recent discussion of the topic here
Universal System and
Ultimate Attributes


let the players choose them.

Players like it.

Game designer likes it, no thinking about if these I selected are the optimal.
New rpg system per season.


I'd say you should first decide what kind of themes you want to present in the game?  Do you want a more cinematic feel or realistic?  That makes a difference.  What sorts of conflicts are important to the game?  If there's not much physical conflict, there isn't much need to make a difference between different physical stats.  In a American Idol RPG, you probably wouldn't even need strength.  But you would need a lot of traits about singing (ability to carry a tune, range, projection, etc.).  So start by thinking what this game is really about at its core.
Greg Jensen


Ok.  Having read (not perused, just read) the threads posted by Valamir, I feel I need to define my intentions more clearly.  

I am attempting to be scientifically neutral in this.  I am reaching for the unachievable goal of an universal standard.  I understand that perfection is a status that man can never acheive, but you must have a goal in order to accomplish something worth while.  

The system is a classless, levelless system that focusses primarily on stats and then skills derived from said stats (Very Similar to Deadlands system at this time, Deadlands is a good system it just has a very defined/limited setting).  It should suit the powergamers very well, but leave the specialists wanting more.  I am trying to leave system and setting as two seperate things at this time.  Yet one without the other is not a complete game.    

From the ultimate attributes I have compiled a big list of possible stats(I should be using the term attributes).  

Physical - Body, Beauty, Strength, Resistence, Stamina, Dexterity, Agility, Flexability, Speed, Density, Vigor, Hand/Eye, Reflex, Physique,

Mental - Mind, Intelligence, Drive, Education Level, Awareness, Perception, Intellect, Intuition, Conscience, Cogitive, Demeanor,

Social - Persuasion, Charisma, Animal Magnetism, Influence, Conviction, Depravity, Lust, Singing

Soul - Will, Luck, Passion, Drive, Faith, Spiritual, Aura,

(I have probably left a good amount of possible stats out)

It is quite obvious that making each one a stat is impossible.  And, the seperation of setting and system makes for complication.  So my implied question from before was, what is a good assortment of attributes to complicate and be encompassing enough to adaquately define a character, but be simple enough that the majority of gamers will be able to figure the system out.  

The question of what to test is answered as:  Wether a character attempting to perform action, will succeed or not.  

Remember that the skills are being based directly from the stats, for the system.  I have been segmenting practically all skills into what I believe are the vital components.  Even martial arts have been segmented up into an array of skills.  I am attempting to avoid modifiers of most sorts, except for the modification of Target Numbers (Used to define the difficulty of performing an action.)

Example Skills based upon strength: Grip, Smithing, Arm Strikes, Leg Strikes, Melee 1-handed, Melee 2-Handed, Jumping, and Wrestling.    

Each stat being assigned an argument nDt (n being number of dice and t being dice type), where n represents the learning and training of the stat and t representing the actual potential possessed.  

Physical combat is the most important part of the system to me, but I don't want it to be limited to that alone.  

I like the idea that people could be defined in secret documents.

Could it be argued that I need to completely list all possible skills that could be available, and then attempt to choose which stats should be used based upon number of skills relating to each stat?  

Not just another A@@hole.
<Generic Mud Addict>


So will attributes be used for anything other than skills?  Or is that the focus, that what attributes you have determine what skills you will be best at?
Greg Jensen

M. J. Young

Quote from: ksarithCould it be argued that I need to completely list all possible skills that could be available, and then attempt to choose which stats should be used based upon number of skills relating to each stat?
Assuming what you mean is whether this is the only way to do it, absolutely not. (The alternative interpretation, the answer is, of course, you can argue for that if you like.)

You might want to take a look at Multiverser; right now it's still being sold (direct from company) at 40% off--information on the Multiverser forum at the Gaming Outpost web sited, thread on limited time discount, probably a couple days before that's pulled. I note that a number of the attributes you list come from there (via the other thread), so seeing how we use attributes and how we relate them to skills might be helpful.

We divide all skills into four categories--we call them technological, psionic, magic, and body. For each category we identify three attributes that connect to that category. Whenever a player wants to use a skill, he uses the best attribute of the three that are in that category.

Tech is a good example. Here the three attributes are intellect, intuition, and education level. We say that some characters are just good at figuring things out, some have an intuitive sense for how to use devices, and some have studied enough that they've probably seen something like it--whichever is your character's strength, that's how he does things in the tech area, and it colors his results. Similarly, in the bod area, the scores are strength, agility, and will power, and so you do bod skills by force, finesse, or determination.

So you don't need to connect each skill to an attribute, particularly since it limits the value of the skills. After all, is a punch different if it is all force as opposed to if it's well aimed and well timed? It's still a punch, and it can still knock you on the ground, even though the individual delivering it did so very differently. Thus creating categories of skills and related collections of attributes can give you more variety in the color of things while reducing the amount of material you have to provide.

There's a lot more in the rules, which incidentally do attempt to explain the reasoning behind many of the design decisions within the text.

As to what attributes you need, you're going to have to focus your mind on what it is that matters about your characters, and do that. Multiverser has fourteen attributes (as you read) because what matters in that game is the ability to transfer all real and imaginary people and creatures into game terms for any kind of world imaginable, so a lot of detail is needed at that level. Legends of Alyria creates incredibly diverse and well-rounded characters with three attributes, not one of which made your list.

--M. J. Young

John Kim

Quote from: ksarithIt is quite obvious that making each one a stat is impossible.  And, the seperation of setting and system makes for complication.  So my implied question from before was, what is a good assortment of attributes to complicate and be encompassing enough to adaquately define a character, but be simple enough that the majority of gamers will be able to figure the system out.  

The question of what to test is answered as:  Wether a character attempting to perform action, will succeed or not.  

Remember that the skills are being based directly from the stats, for the system.  I have been segmenting practically all skills into what I believe are the vital components.  
I wrote an article on this at">Nature vs Nurture in RPGs.  Essentially, my main point is to argue against abstract assumed-inherent values like "Intelligence", "Dexterity", or "Intuition".  The motivation for these and how they are used is based on a particular position on the ancient "Nature vs Nurture" question.  Thus, you are guaranteed to have controversy.  

Instead, it makes more sense to have ratings in skill groups: like "Combat", "Athletics", "Science", "Communication", "Outdoors", and so forth.  In play, rolls for most things should based on such skill categories: i.e. one's ability gets better with practice.  There is no such thing as a task which is based only on "Intelligence".  If there were, there wouldn't be such controversy of IQ tests.  

You will still need stats for things which are typically called "derived stats" in most systems: like hit points, stamina, and so forth.  But these are different from the industry-standard set of 6-12 "primary attributes" which are all rated on the same number range (like 3-18).
- John


Just a quick idea:  I have found that stats should only be there if they need to be.  With the RPG that I've created (and am still attempting to improve) I have had to reevaluate the stats several times.  It's easy to come up with stats at first but once you play the game a few times with the rules that you have implemented you will quickly see which stats are used more than others.

I then either tried to find more uses for the stats that were used less often, or got rid of them altogether.  My goal was to have each stat be worthwhile and for the players to care about each one.  This would make each character type more valuable.

In the end, in my opinion stats should only ever be used for the skill determining / combat aspect of roleplaying.  The players usually easily flesh out their own characters based on their imaginations, rather than saying "My STR is 15, therefore he is big."

Matthew Glanfield" target="_blank">Random RPG Idea Generator - The GMs source for random campaign ideas


Perhaps I need to adjust my point of view once again.  

The entities that are likely to be evaluated are probably going to be living and self conscious.  

The requirements to be self conscious should be simple to define:
1.  Has an awareness of self and of others(Perception in some form.)  
2.  Capability to think(Cognitive/Intelligence of some form.)
3.  Be able to remember what it has already thought of and recall that information(Knowledge of some form.)
4.  Should have reason(s) to sustain its own life functions, wether it is painful not to, or that it wants to for a higher purpose.(Willpower or Reason to be)

Most Creature will be able to interact with the physical environment and have a physical body of some form.  I am trying to set as:
1.  Has to be able to heal self and regenerate to a degree just to counter-act the natural force of matter to move from order to chaos(Constitution)
2.  Most likely(not alway) be able to move itself and its environment to survive.(Strength and Dexterity... I am kind of sketchy on this one myself, but being Bypeds we realize that it is all to easy to fall over if balance isn't kept and if you don't have the strength(or means) to move your own weight then you are not going anywhere)

Must have a means and ability to communicate with others, for it to be involved with the characters at all.  (Communication/Charisma)

For the majority of the entities I currently believe that if stats were to include these 8 major variables then a character will most likely be able to be defined into usuable terms for most mechanics.

The details of Magic and Soul are something that i cannot really talk much about due to the scientific approach I am trying to hold myself to.  But i try to assume that they are absorbed into the higher purpose part of will.  Luck insinuates that there is some force of some kind watching over the character...(yeah the GM, and fudging of the dice).  Not always the case.  

I am assuming that skills are based upon these attributes and fluxuate based upon the stats(feel like i can say stats are the values of the attributes) that they are tied to(I will bang head on wall long time trying to decide where each one will belong).  I am taking that one major assumption that stats are more towards natural, but I intend to leave room for the players to purchase (at moderate costs and training with costs and training increasing in scale to value already achieved).  I am also assuming that at birth there isn't a single person that naturally knows a skill.  In a fantasy setting this can be kind of bad (Example: Dune dude's little sister and children preborn or something like that), but someone learned and developed those skills at one time or another.

I believe that attributes are needed for the purpose of adaquately defining a character(while the derived stats are something of a very large assumption that can from time to time not be fitting to the situation).  The object of Role playing it to play something that you are not.  If you don't allow such things as intelligence or physical, then players will have to find some other means to accomidate for that (great example Redneck LARP Session: person playing character Punches other Player saying I hit you didn't I) (This is the Designers problem, not the players).  

Yes these attributes are abstract, but only about as much as concept of acceleration.  But without acceleration you just stay at the same speed.  The problem with going by simple skill groups you run into is racial limitations and aptitudes.  (I am not going to go into Drake's Equation today, thank you. Besides there are fantasy rpgs)

Example: Athletics - say someone wants to specialize in jumping, and takes insane amounts of skill towards the two(Just like an athletic champion) they finally are able to break the records, and along comes an alien species that has natural prone to jumping which one has the higher skill and which can outleap the other.

I chose Athletics because it seems to be an easier one of the skill groups to visualize.  So do you allow for a modifier, or just a one time skill bonus.(Which would most likely make it more difficult to learn the higher levels of the skill... still trying to avoid modifiers.)

As for Attribute of Education Level, it can and probably should be reflected in the skills, for most systems.  


PS    Sorry about using the infamous word "impossible" such a terrible bad bad word.  I  meant to say improbable.
PPS  If you feel like I have cut you down, feel free to do the same to me just have reason behind it.  I grow and learn better when i have my weaknesses shown to me(Unless it is just spelling errors...crap, I am faltering away from the Scientific approach i was hoping to keep).

Thanks for the input I feel like I am learning quite nicely.
Not just another A@@hole.
<Generic Mud Addict>


Hey, go with the generic approach, yet make sure that what you have is of use, at least in some part.
  If certain Stats/Attributes, or Skills/Talents are only used in certain types of games, in certain situations, then thats fine in my opinion.  It's if  they're only used in a single setting out of 6 or so that you have a problem!

  Most important of all, as far as I view it, is the way you explain things.  If you have a single sentence stating what each Stat/Attib does, then people will tend to take that as all that it does.  If you provide a paragraph, some examples that are obvious, then one or two that are a little "offworld" or abstract, then it permits people to think a bit more and allow flexibility.

  Another alternaitve is not to tie a single stat to a single skill, (which I have done!), yet one of my friends is working out a method of each skill being related to two or maybe three different stats, thus reflecting the various approaches of achieving and developing that skill, and also limiting the supposed "sweet spots" that our generic approach tends to have, (apparently!).
  {{Of course, I'm not sure what happens if you have several stats related to skill... I think you state which one you use when learning, and thats it, you can't then change which stat you use.  I hope thats it, becuase if she has made it so you have to add and divide etc., I'll make her eat it!}}

  My personal approach, note how flexible/genric you want to be, then list the minum stats and the maximum stats that you an 1) think up, 2) find comfortable.  Now think whether you want balanced stats, (i.e. do you want odd or even amounts, are they divided into groups, do they all have sub-stats etc.).
  If you are really going for generic, with no particular trend towards skill or play types, then I suggest equality of stats.  If you are leaning towards a specific aspect, say magic, then you will tailor the stats towards this, (and note that you stop being generic and start being settingnist! ?).

  Just remember, no redundant, dead weight stats or skills.  If you are to have these, maybe they should be for specific settigns, ( a sort of modular design approach).  Also, make the definitions broad and detailed combined, permit thought and imagination... someone is bound to attempt something you lack a skill for, so let them figure what stat to use, by using you definitions and descriptive prose as a guide!

Best of luck
Well, I'll try in here and see what I can find.....