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

System X over Y Part 2:Armor Penalties

Snow Suit Xmas story

Armor can make you harder to hit. It can stop you from taking damage. Verdict is still out if it should do both.  Regardless, since armor is fantastic, what drawbacks should it have?

Mechanics that I’ve seen are dice pool penalties, penalties to dexterity (Or REF, PP, or whatever), penalties to stealth and others. I’ve also played in games the use the encumbrance rules. I mean really use them. That definitely shows how heavy armor is. Also your arrows. And rations. And loot. Painfully. I have spent more time trying to slim down my fantasy possessions to keep the character below the encumbrance threshold than ever I did dealing damage or role-playing. This is sad, because dealing damage is super fun!

I know that I don’t want to spend hard earned enchanting dollars on 25% weight reduced camping supplies, but I do want walking juggernauts to sink when they fall off boats.  Happy Medium?

There’s a benchmark that I’m looking for is “Real enough”. This is should show some ties the real world and actual physics, without having to worry about dropping your backpack for combat (and never getting it back afterwards). Yes 1993, GURPS fantasy game, I’m looking at you.

Bean counting equipment weight seems like work. I get enough of work at work, so a tie in to encumbrance is out for me. Another extreme, of no penalty, seems to open the door for rogues and wizards walking around in full plate. Need the real enough. That leaves penalty to the dexterity-like stats and/or skill penalties.

Stealth or prowl penalty makes a degree of sense for someone covered in chainmail. Does it still hold true for futuristic armor made of super alien hemp plastics? Where does the penalty come from, is it the bulk or the noise? If your game’s skill is attached the dex-like stat, it would be a double whammy to affect them both the stat and the skill. Not all games do. We don’t know what our skill mechanics are going to look like, so this may be revised.

I put forth that underlying dex-like stat is not to be affected. The rationale is this, if I’m sitting at a table wearing piles of armor, I could still perform a coin roll in one of hands. (the hand not caressing the loaded crossbow under the table). The logic next step would have the same armor hinder skills that cold be affected by both bulk and noise. Examples would inlcude stealth, acrobatics, swimming and certain forms of fighting. This list is not 100% inclusive, but we’ll go with the spirit of it for now.

System X over Y Part 1: Armor

Guild_master_armorArmor in one form or another is a role-playing game staple. Starting with leather skins, to chain mail and half plate all the way to laser shields and Kevlar vests, most characters are going to not want to get hit by clubs and particle beams. Because death sucks.

What mechanic is the best to play with?

First to consider is a mechanic something like Armor Class.  Wearing plate mail and carrying a shield the size of small table makes you harder to hit. It does not have contested combat dice rolling. You have a 20 armor class, someone attacks and hits you or not, based on their roll. Quick and it keeps combat moving. This is favorable, but what if a lucky peasant attacks with a sharpened stick of viciousness? Our peasant rolls a 22 and somehow injures our knightly juggernaut. Realistic or silly?

Next, there’s damage resistance or a stopping power mechanism. Our peasant hero grabs a makeshift spear and plunges it into our Sir’s side. Let’s assume another hit, doing 4 points of damage. In the first example, the plate mail does its job as Armor Class, performs as all or nothing and either stops/deflects the blow. Should the armor stop all or some of the four points of damage? Say the armor has damage mitigation of three. Now our spear is not going in as far, only doing one point. Is this better than the all or nothing of AC (Armor Class)? Is the spear considered armor piecing? What if our peasant had an assault rifle with bullets designed for shooting through tanks?

Are the two together too much? First having to beat an armor class/rating and then penetrating the armor itself. Adding in the latter takes an extra step. Doubly so if the defender gets some sort of avoidance, defense or soak roll. (That’s another topic)  All together they seem too much. There are four types of an armor mechanic that could be used.

  1. Peasant would need a high roll based on the knight’s plate armor. (AC/AR)
  2. The knight could attempt to block or evade the strike (Active Defense, Dodge/Block Etc)
  3. The armor itself could stop some or all of the incoming damage. (Damage Resistance/Stopping Power)
  4. The Knight’s own personal stamina/health could shrug off the blow entirely. Damn you White Wolf.


I’m leaning towards something with number 1 and number 3 as the best for playability. I can’t think of system that has this already off the top of my head, but I’ll update this post if I come across it.

Armor Penalties Next Week.

System X over System Y: Part 0

Blind Dice 004How many game systems are exactly what you want?

None would be my guess.

I love D and D and have since the early 80s. Yet, I have always hated the magic system. Spell slots are bullshit, sorry 5e.  Ditto for spell components for anything you would want to cast in combat. You get the point. Every system has something in the mechanics that sucks or doesn’t make sense. There’s great stuff in most systems too, I’m not a monster.

I’m looking for the best system run a game in and maybe publish game world into it. The system might exist, it might not.

I’m going to write about pros and cons of game mechanics. Maybe others will comment and we’ll have a great discussion. If not, I’ll use this as an exercise to draw my own conclusions and go from there. I might identify an ideal system, or I’ll I have a new perfect system in mind, ready to be created.

What is makes a great gaming system? Mechanics that make sense and a fun to play.

I’ve played a number of systems including Dungeons and Dragons(all but 4E), GURPS, Rifts/Palladium, Torg, Cyberpunk, Champions, TFOS, Mistborn and Old World of Darkness.

I have some familiarity with Savage Worlds, Fate, Cortex, Fantasy Age and Mutants and Master Minds.

Topics to be included:

  • Armor
  • Hit Points
  • Combat (Contested or not)
  • Character creation
  • Skills
  • Character Statics and Saves
  • Magic/Psi etc
  • Feats/Advantages
  • Classes
  • Alignments/Disads
  • Points or RNG
  • Dice, Dice Baby