Author Topic: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)  (Read 4698 times)

Offline SolEiji

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Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« on: December 14, 2013, 10:55:59 PM »
While working on Steamspace I had gone back to my five ability scores I made and found them wanting again.  So while brainstorming I once again ran into a problem: I kept making the same six ability scores you'd find in D&D.  Oh, sure, some of them had different names, but they were the same thing really.  Since I'm not trying to make D&D that's frustrating, but I have no idea if I should give in and just recognize the big six as natural expressions of what I need, or if there are other things I should do.

(Though, to be fair I also have a different five stat system which kind of blends Dex and Wis into "Reaction Time".  So there is that...  Thoughts?)

Which brings me to the topic: What are your favorite or even suggested ability score arrays.  What should be covered as base outlines of your character, and what is religated to skills or things built on other stats?
Mudada.

Offline Agita

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2013, 09:51:00 AM »
If the problem is just that you keep coming back to d20's standard set, there's plenty of other systems for examples of how it can be done differently.
Tri-stat has, as the name says, three abilities. Body, Mind, and Soul by varying names.
M&M 3e, while a d20 game, has eight stats: Strength, Dexterity (specifically hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills), Agility (referring to motor coordination of the entire body), Stamina, Fighting, Intellect, Awareness (basically Wisdom), and Presence (basically Charisma).
World of Darkness has nine attributes, splitting physical, mental, and social abilities into power, finesse, and defense: Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Intelligence, Wits, Resolve, Presence, Manipulation, Composure.
Exalted and Scion use the same setup of nine attributes as WoD, but replace Resolve with Perception and Composure with Appearance.
Shadowrun 5e (unfamiliar with earlier editions) has eight or twelve attributes, depending on how you count them, divided along physical, mental, and magic categories with four in each. Physical attributes are Body, Agility, Reaction, and Strength; mental attributes are Willpower, Logic, Intuition, and Charisma; magic attributes are Essence, Edge, Magic, and Resonance. The last four are setting-specific and have separate rules from the first eight, so it's not unfair to think of it as a system of eight ability scores plus another four.
Of course, there's systems that eschew ability scores altogether and are purely skill-based, but I assume those aren't what you're looking for.

I can't say I have a preference for any of those; they're more a basic building block than something to like or dislike. Whether any given trait is a pro or a con, here, ultimately depends on what you want it to do for the game (for instance, Shadowrun's setup is highly granular and crunchy and thus out of place if you want a rules-light game, while M&M 3e's explicit presence of a Fighting stat tells you right away that combat is assumed to be very prominent).

One of the more basic ways of deriving sets of ability scores is to divide them by offense/defense, power/finesse, and physical/mental, with varying degrees of separation. WoD's stats are a good illustrative example, in that you have offense+power and offense+finesse, but the 'defensive' stat isn't differentiated similarly. In exchange, you have an additional option added to the physical/mental axis.
Applying these axes, I've toyed around in the past with a setup of eight ability scores (four physical and four mental), something like Strength/Dexterity/Agility/Stamina and Presence/Intelligence/Will/Wisdom. (Note: The names are made up on the spot, especially for the mental stats.)
« Last Edit: December 15, 2013, 09:59:25 AM by Agita »
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Offline FlaminCows

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2013, 10:20:00 AM »
SolEiji, you want five ability scores? Not too difficult, even if you're used to D&D's six. Just take two of them and merge them.

Strength + Constitution = "Strength", covering both picking things up and taking a hit, which often go to together in people.
Strength + Dexterity = "Athleticism", covering how fit your dude is.
Dexterity + Wisdom = "Reaction Time", as you've already seen.
Dexterity + Intelligence = "Skill", covering practised thought and movement.
Intelligence + Wisdom = "Mind"; the distinction between an intelligent man and a wise man is often not important.
Wisdom + Charisma = "Spirit", this is how WoW does it and it makes sense. Much of the things attributed to "charisma" in D&D can just as much be attributed to being wise: social skills, understanding how to use devices, etc.

Since all games with ability scores seek to describe the same things with any number of scores, all ability scores in any system can be seen as division or merging of abilities in other systems.

Offline SolEiji

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2013, 06:27:23 PM »
Its less that I'm aiming for a certain number of ability scores and more trying to distance myself from looking too much like D&D (I already have a similar looking action cost, I don't think that one is gonna change).  The previous scores were Fitness (Str+Con mostly), Dexterity, Intelligence, Awareness (Perception more than Wisdom), and Ego (Cha+Will saves).  Right now its Strength, Constitution, Intelligence, Reaction Time, and Ego.  Lesse if I can explain how I arrived at these...

In the game there are three main defenses against anything.  Evading it (Reaction time, works against magic or physical equally and is very binary), blocking it (mostly against physical things, Con focused here), or resisting it (for magical insubstantial things like mind control, or social battles, this is Ego).  Before I combined Str and Con into fitness but it has two problems: I felt it made physical classes a bit too SAD if attacking and physical defending was all in one stat.  And it means there were no glass cannons who were strong but couldn't take a hit.  But if I split them into Str and Con, I ended up with Str, Dex, Con, Int, Awareness, and Ego.... which is clearly just Wisdom and Charisma in another suit.

So then I thought of dropping Awareness, since that can be handled by Perception-like skills.  And I looked at Dexterity and really what its measuring is "how fast do you react and how sensitive" so I figured I'd melt them into Reaction Time.  Back down to five.

As far as the number of scores, I don't know what number is right but I try to keep it simple whenever I can to avoid clutter.  The known goals I have are as follows:

*Ability score for melee attacks. (Currently Strength)
*Ability score for ranged attacks. (Currently Reaction time)
*Ability score for magic attacks. (Currently Int)
*Ability score for blocking and soaking attacks. (Currently Constitution)
*Ability score for resisting mental attacks. (Currently Ego)
*Ability score for evading attacks. (Currently Reaction Time)
*Ability score for social things. (Currently Ego)
*Ability score for piloting vehicles/gun turrets (Currently Reaction Time)

It's a little heavy on Reaction Time, much like how Dex is useful in D&D, but like Dex Reaction Time can't pump out damage easily compared to Str and Int.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2013, 07:49:12 PM by SolEiji »
Mudada.

Offline SolEiji

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2013, 06:56:31 AM »
As a small update, one suggested concept to me was Fitness, Reactions, Mental, and Ego, with Fitness consuming Str+Con, Reactions and Mental as above, and Mental just a rename of Intelligence.  It's four, so its simple, and they have all new names.  Any opinions on it, or questions?  I haven't decided on it, but its there.
Mudada.

Offline Agita

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2013, 07:24:58 AM »
I need to say first of all that "being different from X" is not a sufficient or required reason for anything. It can be a bonus, but it shouldn't be your basic reason. You want to start with "what does my game want and need out of its ability scores?" If you do that, and your game's needs are different from D&D's, chances are you'll wind up with something sufficiently different anyway. If they're not, you don't really need them to be different in the first place.

That said, what you have at the moment looks serviceable on the surface. I suggest taking a step back and looking at the big picture now. What's your game about? How do you want it to play and feel? Since you're clearly measuring yourself against D&D, what is it you want it to do that D&D doesn't? These things are what everything ultimately works towards, so knowing that would be important to giving good feedback.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 07:27:38 AM by Agita »
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Offline SolEiji

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2013, 08:01:16 AM »
I agree that being different for the sake of difference is no good.  I may be overcompensating, but I try not to ape D&D because D&D is the system I am most used to, I seem to have trouble learning other systems well, and because I want to eventually monitize my creation.  If it turns into Eiji's 3.5 Homebrew book, it has failed at being its own unique system.  Also, it's good for me to try new things anyway, I don't want to get stuck in the mud.  Ironically my quest on this started after playing Exalted of all things, even though its lost quite a few of its Exalted concepts over time.

Steamspace is a space opera game which is designed to be fairly widespread with what you can make a campaign out of, something I consider one of D&D's strengths.  In D&D it might be Eberron, or Faerun, or a completely homebrew setting, and it all feels like D&D rather than, say, Exalted which seems to stick with its one setting.  I figured this meshes well with the concept of the space opera theme... going from one planet of hats to another.  Want a western?  Visit the Wild West planet.  Want a horror?  Time to visit Horror Planet.  Want completely homebrew planet?  Done.  At it's core, the "default setting", it takes inspiration from things like Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, Spelljammer, and Star Control.  Outlaw Star is probably the closest in setting I can think of as it has technological and supernatural elements, as well as dogfighting and actual melee between starships.  I can fill you in on fluff if you like, the fluff is well rounded out mostly.  My inner perfectionist makes me keep redoing base mechanics over and over again though.  I want it built on something strong that I won't regret later.

In any case the challenge here is making a system that works both on foot and in vehicle situations.  I think I've solved that already.  This is unlike D&D in which vehicles are kind of tacked onto individual soldiers duking it out, instead its part of its core mechanics.  Another aspect that I wish to capture is travel and exploration; its not enough just to land on a planet, fight a space dragon, and loot its space treasure.  The trip there must be interesting, the ship is a party-wide resource which must be upkept, and so forth.  One thing I have done (in theory, still checking for flaws) is separating wealth by level being super-important to just survive.  What level you are determines the strength of your gear rather than its cost, with cost going more towards things like the abilities of your ship and items of status.

I suppose of D&D is about killing stuff and getting loot to kill more stuff, Steamspace is killing stuff to get a ship to explore to kill more stuff to get a pimped out ship to explore to....

Curiously when it comes to how it plays and feels, two things pop out as far as how combat goes: Disgaea and FTL.  The FTL was troubling since I made the system, FTL came out, and it was scary close to what I had made.  The disgaea one is purposeful: I enjoy the Move + Action of Disgaea, FFT, and similar games and want it to have some of that tactical feel to the point I'm highly considering putting in facing as part of the tactics, and having special attacks and abilities with unique shapes and area effects besides burst, line, cube, and cone.  When comparing to D&D, I want your position (and maybe your facing) to be important, and to have a list of abilities you can do with your single action.  I want vehicle combat to be fleshed out and important.  I want to make magic items give options more than power.  I want casters not to dominate melee. 

I'm gonna post this then type a bit more (feel free to reply anyway if I haven't finished my second post).  I feel... loquacious today.
Mudada.

Offline SolEiji

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2013, 09:20:40 AM »
For all the info you wanted to know, and even the stuff you didn't...

One of the things I've been playing around the concept with is social combat, and how it plays out like an actual fight.  I was amused by the concept of people using their Ego scores against each other, performing "maneuvers" like bluff, intimidate, diplomacy, and other effects to wear down their morale (mental hp) until they cede to your requests.  It's more interesting than "I need to convince the king."  "Roll diplomacy."  "Success/failure." and can even let players so trials or diplomatic missions between nations.  It also has combat usage, trying to intimidate attackers away instead of beat attackers away.  With that said the system is not yet fully fleshed yet so I can only talk about it in the vaguest of terms.  Its also something I might be able to work in with actual combat magic involving things of an enchantment/telepathy flavor, where instead of being a binary yes or no, you wear down the opponent's mind until they are charmed, dominated, mindraped, whatever.

Of things more fleshed out... compared to D&D I kind of made AC and saving throws one in the same, with the concept being you can "Reflex save" against a sword or a fireball, with magic having the same defenses physical might have.  The Fort/Reflex/Will came out to Blocking it, Dodging it, and Resisting it (for blocking things of a more incorporeal nature).  A lot of "magic" effects are directly replaceable by the appropriate items as well, and for casters I basically want them to be the "item guys" with their items built in as a result of their spell list.  Appropriate, because in lore most magic is of the artificer enhanced items type and less of the worldshaking reality bending and fireballs.  They are there, but there's no focus on it.

Another thing different from D&D is that I have hp and I have wounds, with hp scaling and wounds scaling much slower.  Wounds are sorta the 0 to -10 part of dying, but you're not unconcious during it.  The idea is you burn through your hp, your fortune and minor wounds, and if you run out of that (or if you take certain blows like critical hits) it goes to your wounds instead.  Hp is cheap, it refills quickly, spells can heal it like that, etc.  Wounds are the sort of things you need to get medical attention for.  You have maiming, where you might get a status like a broken bone which lowers your maximum wounds (making it easier for you to die) and provides penalties.  You might have a lot of wound damage but full hp, meaning you've been refreshed but you still haven't healed up that huge gash in your chest.  Etc.  Death should be a bit less often and can be reversed easier if handled immediately, which is good, because the revolving door of death is a bit smaller and held back to powerful items.

Compared to D&D, there's not many planes, but there are planes.  Specifically one major plane which is their Astral/Far Realm where all the magic and outsidery things are.  Gods are not prominent and there may not be any.  There are a few Lovecraft elements, also vague and mysterious and technically just powerful and violent outsidery things from the "other" Astral.  There are religions (and one actually is a major political force in the world) but short of people who worship outsiders, their gods may or may not exist.  I don't touch on the afterlife much and keep it mysterious.  Clearly there is something on the other plane with the souls, but who knows if its heaven, hell, oblivion, etc.  Because of the nature of this Astral adventures probably won't take place there unless they find a "solid" patch of it, and in that case it really is just another planet of hats.  Also, its really hard to just GO there.

Lesse, what other things can I compare and contrast with D&D.... well, clearly I have fantasy races as aliens.  I've set up which are the Core races and a few of the non-core races or monsters.  Some of them have comparisons to D&D, I should be safe for many (like kobolds, D&D didn't invent those) but some I probably should be careful about (Beholder and Aboleth expies, looking at you).  Might get away with the Illithid expies since Starspawn of Cthulthu weren't made by D&D anyway (they aren't called that, and aren't necessarily that).  Actual closeness to their example monsters can be discussed if you're interested.

Mudada.

Offline Plush Von Plush

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2013, 09:18:05 PM »
(First of all, I love the idea of "Ego Combat." Finally, my rolls-thirty-six-dice-for-con-but-has-no-gun shadowrun character will actually feel exciting to play!)

I'll do my best to not try and dictate ideas to you, and I'll similarly make an attempt to avoid stating the obvious stuff (Since, well, both of those things are obnoxious. That being said, my definition of "obvious" likely differs from yours.)

First of all, I personally like the idea of eight stats, but that's just because I'm the type of gamer who likes moderately meticulous, realistic systems. I find anything more than ten to be,  both insane and often redundant, (If you have both "Agility" and "Dexterity," something has gone horribly wrong) but if you have a really clear idea of what you'd like to do go for it. Just make sure that every stat does something unique and different! A game with a default dump stat is always a bad thing. *coughcoughCHARISMAcough*

On the flip side, anything below four is way, way too simple, especially if you have a separate stat for magic (or its equivalent.) Wisdom and Intelligence (Or Charisma, if you have more of a 4e-esque interpretation) are easy to combine, as are Strength and Constitution. But after that, it gets really tough to stop the stats from feeling... well, for lack of a better word, "cluttered." The stats just do too much stuff. Stuff that isn't shared by any other stat, sure. But does my absent-minded-professor character have a better understanding of human interaction because of his godly IQ? For that matter, does the differential equations he solve have any bearing on why he can't find those darn car keys of his?!

But, honestly? Don't feel too bad using D&D as the baseline for your stat system. I have a whole lot of complaints about D&D, but I've always thought that they did the basic stat arrangement pretty well. (Skills... now that's a different matter. For examples of a rules-heavy system that did it right, look at Shadowrun. For one that did it wrong, look at Anima: Beyond Fantasy. Actually, just look at Anima: Beyond Fantasy in general for a game that got way too complex way too fast.) Besides, it's become almost a universal frame of reference, with even gamers who have never played D&D likely to understand what you're talking about. And even if they don't, you can pretty easily break it down for them.

ALSO: ACTUAL PRACTICAL QUESTION: Are you thinking of going from three to eighteen, one to ten, one to a hundred (don't do this), use dice for attributes, or...? While we're on the subject, how were you planning for them to modify tests?
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Offline X-Codes

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2014, 01:53:42 AM »
I feel like if you want to make a system that's not D&D, then look at systems that are not D&D and draw some inspiration from them.  Shadowrun has stats that work in certain ways.  WoD has that nice, tidy breakdown.  Warhammer is very D&D-like, but at the same time it manages to distinguish itself.  There are also a few, lesser-known systems that distribute each skill across a few stats like The Dark Eye.  There are also games like Apocalypse World where the stats are a bit more abstract and represent your character's basic capabilities instead of raw attributes.

Offline DavidWL

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Re: Perfered ability scores (and my own troubles with them)
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2014, 03:50:13 AM »
Random thought ... it would be interesting to have attributes based on real-world categorizations ...

Intelligence -> Emotional Intelligence, etc.

You hear Gym people talk about "Power" vs. "Strength" vs "Endurance" vs Flexibility.   

Dancers discuss ... Flexibility, Agility, Alignment, Balance

Would be interesting.

Best,
David