Attributes or No?


  • Coder

    Curious what folks think about skill systems having attributes. I'm on the fence.

    Pros

    • Differentiates between natural talent and training, reflecting folks who are just plain gifted.
    • Lets you model things that aren't really skills (like Strength reflecting how much you can lift, or augmenting melee damage).
    • Gives you something to roll when defaulting (like Dexterity if you're making an untrained Firearms roll).

    Cons

    • The line between skill and attribute is very fuzzy and confusing sometimes (is lifting capacity based on Strength or on my Weightlifting skill? How does Athletics factor in?)
    • The line between skill and talent is fuzzy and confusing sometimes (If I'm a brand new pilot but I'm really awesome because I'm talented, do I take Rookie for my training or Expert because I'm as awesome as an expert?)
    • More things to buy = more points required in chargen = more opportunities to min/max. I've noticed attributes tend to get min-maxed more than skills, especially ones that are rolled more or less often.

    To be clear, the alternative would be a system like FATE that has only skills. A single rating encompasses both talent + training, and attribute-ish sorts of things are reflected by "Skills" like Physique and Rapport. Defaulting rolls would use Average unless the GM decided you had reason to be more or less awesome.


  • Pitcrew

    Yes. I like attributes being separate from skills, and having them impact the skills. Very much, so. .If I'm super charismatic I'm going to be able to persuade people better than I would if I weren't, etc. I far prefer this level of customization.


  • Pitcrew

    I tend to be of the same opinion as Sunny, though if you are going for a rules light system I can see streamlining but for the most part I prefer them both having a place.


  • Coder

    @sunny channels me well.


  • Politics

    I like them.

    I also like to play with them.

    For example, I am designing a system where the Attributes can change depending on the type of game you want to play, and that will inform the kind of Skills you have, as well.

    Skills are a combination of an Attribute and a Category. Your categories are Physical, Mental, and Social. Your Attributes could be anything you want that is broad enough. Let's say one of your Attributes is Fortitude.

    You make three Skills out of this: Physical Fortitude (Endurance), Mental Fortitude (Resolve), and Social Fortitude (Integrity).

    Come up with four more Attributes, and you get 12 more Skills.

    This system is meant to combine Attributes and Skills, too, where the Attribute dictates the type of die you roll and the Skill the amount.

    I mean, I haven't gotten far along enough to share the whole thing, but this is just one of the ways that Attributes can be used without it being the same-ol', same-ol'.


  • Coder

    Yes.


    Oh, wait, I meant no.


    Welcome, casual reader, to Game Design 480: Character Stat Foundations, an advanced course about what statistics to include in your game. Should you have stats derived by adding and dividing other stats together? Should you have core stats with a list that enhances or affects them? Skills? Attributes?

    Firstly, what do we mean by Attributes? We mean the pinnacle stat, usually used to describe the character's raw capabilities. Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Intelligence, Wisdom. They are almost never, ever skills, which tend to be specialty items that are learned or trained. Okay, yes, you can train up your strength but as a person you tend to have limits. Attributes are before what you can learn to do; they're what you are.

    I'm going to skip D&D because we should generally all get the gist of it. Skills came to D&D very late (about four versions in with 3e, tho they existed as an option in 2e). Skills are a secondary consideration as the original D&D the Attributes were never rolled, ever. They were the basis of table-lookup derived skills like "Bend Bars/Lift Gates" and "Saving Throw: Poison". Even now, I think D&D and Pathfinder half-ass it, but they half-ass it in a very comfortable and predictable way, so it's a good half-an-ass.

    Paranoia 2nd Edition, Toon, and Teenagers from Outer Space all had a system where there were skills under a broad category, those categories not always but often considered to be attributes. "Chutzpah" from Paranoia being my favorite. You would add the head stat ("Chutzpah") with a subordinate stat ("Spurious Logic") to see how well you could do, but it was always "Chutzpah"; you could not link "Spurious Logic" to any other attribute.

    Again, similar to D&D, tho many other games did it this way first. Everything Chaosium, for example. In this way, you had a pinnacle stat, skill or otherwise, and all its subordinate skills and abilities.

    The Storyteller System (the original World of Darkness books) said, "Hey, you know, what do we roll if someone wants to recognize a gun by sound in the distance? Wouldn't they link their Firearms to something else in this case? A perception attribute we might call 'Wits'?" I'm sure other games asked the same question beforehand, but please forgive me as I'm not sure who. Possibly Shadowrun. Anyhow.

    Around this time, and a little before it, a game system known as F.U.D.G.E. took the opposite notion: Let's just focus on the important stuff, the things you know and the things you can do. Okay, in FUDGE they had Attribute + Skill systems, and it took Fred Hicks to say to whomever he was driving home from a convention with at a time, "Seriously, why Attributes?" And so FATE was born.

    FATE as a system goes entirely into the idea that what you can do is all that needs recorded. It doesn't matter if you're super-melee-god because you're strong, or quick, or both. You decide why it is; all that's important is that anyone getting in your way is likely to end up with a bloody nose.

    Even further abstracted, this kind of "ability instead of attribute" game can be played this way: Invent your own abilities, give them numbers, and play. "Fire Magic: 3", "Pew Pew Pew!: 2d6", so forth. God help me that I can't remember the game that @WTFE loves so much in this venue.


    Which leads me to answering the question in this thread. All methods have benefits and drawbacks, so much so that there's no one that's better than the other.

    I'll play all of these, complain about all of these, and try to encourage everyone to play to the spirit of the rules depending on whichever one is used.

    I prefer the abilities-instead-of-attributes-and-or-skills of the FATE/Fate Core method. I want to be the one who decides if my ability to bitchslap comes from being wiry or brutish or skillful. Maybe I have rapport with spirits because I'm a good bullshitter, or because I'm bat-shit crazy. Unfortunately Fate Core is such a high-adventure game that I want to see a low-power version for other kinds of play.



  • I'm a fan of an attribute/skill split, but I'm also a fan of simplified attributes (which is why I'm going with Physical/Social/Mental/Willpower for Houses of the Blood).

    I'm also really a fan of what MET: Vampire's most recent version does; you don't get something in each Strength/Dexterity/Stamina, but you DO get a specialization in one (or two if you take a special Merit), and the specialization in each category informs what you're the 'best' at with that character, as well as gives some bonuses.


  • Pitcrew

    I think the idea that in attribute-less skill systems a player gets to pick what attributes are important to them (e.g. Physique) is a compelling argument for leaving attributes out. It's simpler (with the caveat that you have to watch for Bob's Physique vs. Sue's Brawn...are they the same thing?), it's more flexible, and it offers more customization.


  • Pitcrew

    @Ide said in Attributes or No?:

    I think the idea that in attribute-less skill systems a player gets to pick what attributes are important to them (e.g. Physique) is a compelling argument for leaving attributes out. It's simpler (with the caveat that you have to watch for Bob's Physique vs. Sue's Brawn...are they the same thing?), it's more flexible, and it offers more customization.

    I don't understand. How does a player get to pick what's important if the choice doesn't exist?


  • Pitcrew

    For some reason I thought you could create your own skills in FATE; I was wrong (tm).


  • Coder

    @Ide

    You can in FUDGE and in PDQ and a small handful of other game systems that if you want I can look up.


  • Coder

    I am a fan of them but I've been quantifying them more objectively.

    You have physical, mental, and social categories and then in each three categories you have three traits or attributes that are Power, Finesse, and Resistance.

    The skills are also broken down via mental, social, and physical but are used by the skills differently depending on what you want to do:

    Brute force punch or slam or grapple: Physical Power + Unarmed Combat. To try and dodge that same attack it'd be Physical Finesse + Unarmed Combat.

    I am trying to avoid power skills like 'Dodge' because honestly avoiding getting punched is a lot different than avoiding being shot, but if you are good with guns then you know how to also take cover and avoid being shot with guns as most people aren't going to be dodging bullets due to relativistic speed differences between a person and a bullet for example.

    If you were to use a martial arts attack it'd be Physical Finesse + unarmed combat rather than power.

    So far it's working out pretty reasonably in my testing.



  • @Thenomain said in Attributes or No?:

    Even further abstracted, this kind of "ability instead of attribute" game can be played this way: Invent your own abilities, give them numbers, and play. "Fire Magic: 3", "Pew Pew Pew!: 2d6", so forth. God help me that I can't remember the game that @WTFE loves so much in this venue.

    Mythic?


  • Pitcrew

    @WTFE
    Off topic but blatant plug, while I don't care for the Mythic system itself. I loves me the mythic GM Emulator, it can be used with any system and I think works wonderfully for solo rpg gaming.
    Yes we all know RPG are much better with people but there are some games I like that the rest of my group doesn't or games that they like but I am the only one that ever runs so the GM Emulator lets me get to play those with out having to find a whole new group of people.


  • Coder

    @WTFE said in Attributes or No?:

    @Thenomain said in Attributes or No?:

    Even further abstracted, this kind of "ability instead of attribute" game can be played this way: Invent your own abilities, give them numbers, and play. "Fire Magic: 3", "Pew Pew Pew!: 2d6", so forth. God help me that I can't remember the game that @WTFE loves so much in this venue.

    Mythic?

    No, no, the game with the stick-figure art. Oh yes, Risus.



  • Risus isn't me, sorry.

    @ThatGuyThere said in Attributes or No?:

    @WTFE
    Off topic but blatant plug, while I don't care for the Mythic system itself. I loves me the mythic GM Emulator, it can be used with any system and I think works wonderfully for solo rpg gaming.

    For me too. The main game itself is a little meh, but the GME is brilliant.


  • Politics

    @Lithium said in Attributes or No?:

    I am a fan of them but I've been quantifying them more objectively.

    You have physical, mental, and social categories and then in each three categories you have three traits or attributes that are Power, Finesse, and Resistance.

    The skills are also broken down via mental, social, and physical but are used by the skills differently depending on what you want to do:

    Brute force punch or slam or grapple: Physical Power + Unarmed Combat. To try and dodge that same attack it'd be Physical Finesse + Unarmed Combat.

    I am trying to avoid power skills like 'Dodge' because honestly avoiding getting punched is a lot different than avoiding being shot, but if you are good with guns then you know how to also take cover and avoid being shot with guns as most people aren't going to be dodging bullets due to relativistic speed differences between a person and a bullet for example.

    If you were to use a martial arts attack it'd be Physical Finesse + unarmed combat rather than power.

    So far it's working out pretty reasonably in my testing.

    This is basically what CofD does. Those are even the same cross categories. I mean, you're obviously aware of it, but you may want to be wary of it, as well.

    Also, why is "martial arts" Finesse and Unarmed Combat isn't (or vice versa)? There are a lot of martial arts that I would argue are a lot more about physical power than finesse. If you're going to go into that sort of separation, you might benefit from letting people decide whether their unarmed combat is Power- or Finesse-based from the get go and applying different penalties in that vein.


  • Politics

    @Coin said in Attributes or No?:

    Also, why is "martial arts" Finesse and Unarmed Combat isn't (or vice versa)? There are a lot of martial arts that I would argue are a lot more about physical power than finesse.

    Just because it requires Dexterity *** doesn't mean it's all about finesse. And Dexterity isn't really just about finesse.

    I mean, as far as I understand those words.

    That CoD breaks them down as such appears to be more of a game-bias or choice.

    I think there should be more emphasis on Attributes, and less on Skills, personally. I like Dream Pod 9's Silhouette system, and the newer L5R mechanics.


  • Politics

    @Ganymede said in Attributes or No?:

    @Coin said in Attributes or No?:

    Also, why is "martial arts" Finesse and Unarmed Combat isn't (or vice versa)? There are a lot of martial arts that I would argue are a lot more about physical power than finesse.

    Just because it requires Dexterity *** doesn't mean it's all about finesse. And Dexterity isn't really just about finesse.

    I'm not sure why you're bringing this up (or prerequisites at all). My point is actually that there are a ton of what people would consider "martial arts" that are much more focused on what @Lithium seems to attribute to a "Power"-type attribute instead of a "Finesse"-type attribute, especiall when compared to others.

    She can certainly decide to define "Martial Arts", within her system, as "unarmed combat requiring Finesse over Power", but I think many people would find it confusing (or reductive). Doesn't much matter, if that's what she wants to do, though.

    I mean, as far as I understand those words.

    That CoD breaks them down as such appears to be more of a game-bias or choice.

    The words mean certain (sometimes many) things by definition, but a game system gives them a specific definition and within that game system, that's what they mean. It's essentially the difference between finesse and Finesse, yes?

    So really, yes, Dexterity in the CofD system is all about Finesse, because it is the Physical Finesse Attribute; literally the physical representation of your character's innate Finesse.

    CofD breaks them down that way, and thus within the metaphysical make-up of the reality that the system represents, that's exactly how it works. They're abstract.

    This is why I am against interpretations of Attributes that are literal based on the words used. To me, Strength does not necessarily correlate (only) to how much muscle your character has packed on or how much raw strength they can display (after all, if it's for lifting, you also use Athletics, and there are Merits that help as well), but rather to how efficiently and effectively the character imposes their Power in the Physical. The same way as Presence is how efficiently and effectively the charactger imposes their Power in the Social, and Intelligence... you get it. This is why Stamina is still a reasonable Attribute to use when you're clinging to a cliff and someone is stepping on your fingers. It doesn't matter how strong you are; what matters is how efficiently your can resist (Resistance category) in the Physical (i.e. Stamina).

    I think there should be more emphasis on Attributes, and less on Skills, personally. I like Dream Pod 9's Silhouette system, and the newer L5R mechanics.

    I have never played Dream Pod 9, and only know L5R peripherally.


  • Coder

    @coin CofD? That's nWoD right? They have 3 attributes in each of Physical/Mental/Social categories, but I don't think they really align with the Power/Finesse/Resistance angle, do they? (Edit) Nevermind, I forgot they changed that in nWoD, which I never actually played.

    @Ganymede Can you elaborate on what about Silhouette/L5R's attribute system you like?


  • Politics

    @faraday said in Attributes or No?:

    Can you elaborate on what about Silhouette/L5R's attribute system you like?

    It's honestly been so long, I'd have to go back and look at both. What I recall of the former was a single, simple roll where Attributes add to the die results and Skills determine how many dice are rolled. With the latter, you had a pool of dice determined by Attribute + Skill, but you kept a number of dice equal to the Attribute, and then compared against a difficulty number.


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