System X over Y Part 3 Base Stats:

building blocks

Building Blocks, 1997, Kumi Yamashita

We must define our heroes by a set of … something to compare how tough, strong or smart they are. Every system I’ve ever seen starts with a basic outline of who someone is.  What do need to define someone? Before I get too far I want to insert my own person bias. I like character attributes that feed into and form other secondary attributes. There are a number of systems that do this in one form or another. I’ve always felt a wizard that is super smart should get some sort of power bonus to spell casting, either stronger or more or something.

Starting with physical:

Strength. (Bod, PS, etc): Measures how strong someone is, but not how healthily.

Dexterity( REF, PP, Agility) Measures overall coordination and nimbleness.

Stamina: (Con, Endurance, etc) This reflects overall health and sturdiness.

Attractiveness. I question whether to put this here. Some games you have to pay extra for this. Some it comes with the package and it shares finite character resources to have any about the most basic.  How often would this become just a dump stat?  Not sure I’m sold on this a base stat, but since unless we’re talking about inner beauty, it goes here.


Intelligence: Raw IQ. This is not street smarts, book smarts and pure brain power only.

Wisdom (Common Sense, etc): This is important. I really dislike systems that leave this out. Perhaps their designers have never met that person who get straight A’s in school, but then asks a police officer where to score drugs. They are out there.

Willpower: Inner resolve and such

Mental Endurance.  This is from Palladium/Rifts. I think it has place in a well rounded character.

Perception: Skill or a Stat? I’ve seen both. Not sure which side I’ll fall on,


Charisma (Charm, Cool, PRE etc): Pretty much the catch all social stat. Some spell casters use this as how they affect this universe. This is described as using their presence to manipulate the world. Seems like it should be a different attribute.

Manipulation: This exists in only White Wolf (that I know of).  The whole social tree never felt right. On one side, someone who is in real life, charming, eloquent or attractive could use that via role-playing and never have to make a roll and could put very few resources there. The inverse is also true, someone who isn’t socially gifted, can pile points into the stats and get out of role playing by leaning on the dice. I don’t think I’d include this one.


Other possible attributes to consider

Spirit/Inner Strength/Mojo- I feel there should always be a tie in to physic powers, arcane power or relationship with the whatever gods your character believes in. I don’t like this tied to brain power or common sense. It should be its own stand alone.

Empathy/Humanity.  Cyberpunk, Shadowrun and even Vampire have something like this. Could be a useful trait to add flavor to a character.

Education and Social Standing. (From Traveler) Interesting, not sure if I’m sold yet.


Another way to go: I was just flipping through my Ninja Crusades 2nd Ed and the I don’t see stats at all. It looks as if basic hero level bad-ass-ery is assumed and the skills levels replace stats all together.  Fantasy Age does a combination. I’ve never played either, so I don’t know what that looks like in practice.

I’m torn between how many is too many. 8? 9?  If we have too many, any point based system we come with will create mediocre heroes, as there attributes become spread too thin. White Wolf break it in to categories, letting your specialize in an area. There is some wisdom there.


Next Week: Secondary Stats


7 responses to “System X over Y Part 3 Base Stats:

    • I’ve tried to like Fudge/Fate. It is just not crunchy enough for the ‘not at all regular’ gaming group. Our stories are usually role-playing heavy, which lends to those system well, until something needs to be killed, and then we like numbers. The descriptor thing always seemed like splitting hairs. For example, in Vampire the Masquerade the specialty descriptors always seems to hinder game play. I had a character that had the bonus ‘eloquent’ which never seemed to fit the GMs expectation to get the bonus. It got to the point that I stopped mentioning and focused on building the dice pool.

      • Not quite what I was getting at. The main thing I was thinking, was centered more around why the number of attributes and was arbitrary, and that the attributes themselves might not be consistent from one character to another. The thing that I think is advantageous in the way FUDGE deals with character attributes, is that they are as arbitrary and flexible as they are.

  1. Having thought about this in more detail since my last reply, I think a lot of my personal preferences regarding character attributes in a game-system end up being based on what purpose(s) they serve in the context of a story/adventure. Setting aside any considerations of “scale” of those attributes (i.e., how much stronger is a 15 STR than a 10 STR, that sort of thing), I tend to like the following (in no particular order):

    Strength — A measure of your ability to exert force on/against things in the physical world.
    Health — A measure of your ability to withstand/survive force exerted on you in the physical world.
    Coordination — A measure of your control over your own body.
    Intelligence — A measure of your ability to learn, to apply existing knowledge to new situations, etc.
    Willpower — A measure of your ability to persist in the face of danger, pain, or whatever; might also be a measure of the ability to exert mental or psychic force, and/or to resist the same.
    Initiative — A measure of your ability to react to things before they can affect you.
    Presence — A measure of your ability to persuade, intimidate, or otherwise motivate others through force of personality.

    Depending on the genre, there may be others as well. This set also discounts things like explicit Hit Points (or whatever equivalent might be in play).

    • Deep down I appreciate moving to more free form interpretation of character powers, but I think for marketability of a game system, players like crunching number, largely to abuse that system for power.Nothing against min/maxer types, just acknowledging they are driving force in the industry. I follow that pathfinder forums and it’s all about power and less so about role playing.

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