Sunday, February 5, 2012

2D6: Attributes

One of my design goals with the 2D6 system is to keep the details to a minimum.  Part of that involves streamlining the list of attributes.  I have come up with a list of 3 broad attributes:

Might [M]: a measure of the character's physical strength and fatigue potential.

Prowess [P]: a measure of the character's balance, coordination, and reflexes.

Intellect [I]: a measure of the character's learning potential and reasoning ability.

I like the fact that the list is short and to the point.  I am not 100% sure that only 3 attributes will serve the purposes of this system.  I am unsure if I need to add another attribute that measures some form of mental toughness and stress resistance.  I think that social attribute stuff can be handled with talents or advantage type stuff.  I am designing outside of my comfort zone so I am sure it will take several attempts to get it right.

I am thinking that the race of the character will help determine the attribute ratings. I probably will not go with mechanical modifications to the initial scores that are rolled but something different.  Maybe a roll of 2D6 for each attribute on a chart in the race description.  This specific chart will be weighted to generate a rating in line with typical members of that race.  For example, an elf might have a might generation chart that looks something like this:

Roll            Score
2                 -2
3 to 8          -1
9 to 11         0
12               +1

It is easy to see that the majority of elf characters will have either a -1 rating or average rating.  Of course, selection of class/role/etc. could also change this rating in some manner also.  

More later...


  1. In regards to intellect, what would you use it for? Would you allow roles to solve a puzzle? If so, then leave the attribute. If you insist the players figure things out themselves, then maybe you should ditch it and replace it with a mental toughness rating. I, personally, do not like intelligence as an attribute. Players can't play smarter than they are, and it is actually not that easy to play dumber either.

    I assume the basic mechanics will be something like attribute plus talent plus 2d6. If this is the case, then talents should naturally fall into groups. So write up all of the fantasy talents and see how you group them. Do they all fit into what you have, or are some left out? This will let you know if you have to add something or not.

    The second depends on what you take to be a logical coherence. For example, in LA, Speed was connected to Magic use. So the faster you were physically, the faster you were mentally, the more power you had, and the better you were at casting. That just seemed dumb to me and doesn't fit with the old wizard archetype. So in PJ, I had didn't follow the LA model.

    I also found that, for me, when going beyond a fantasy setting I needed more attributes. This was all about the internal logic of the game and making it coherent. But some people are able to ignore such things. For example, the Tri-Stat system just has Mind/Body/Spirit.

    1. Good insights, Darius. Yes, my plan at this point is to do something like att + talent + 2D6 roll. I will take your advice about splitting the talents into groups to see what I come up. I don't know why I didn't think of that before but it makes sense. Your example about LA and Speed and your changes will help also.

      I see your point about Intelligence. I have often wondered if it could be eliminated from games with no ill effect on play; for pretty much the same reasoning that you mention.

      Yeah, I can see needing more attributes for settings other than fantasy. I can not ignore such things as you mention in your last paragraph; at least not in my designs. I try to make things "right" with the setting, tone, and atmosphere of the game. That's what I am trying to do here and I appreciate your insights.

  2. In PJ, I used Will instead of Intelligence. It is about some mental/spiritual power not as aspect of how smart you are.

    Now, once I can get things edited, the non-fantasy game I have coming out has lots of attributes. You probably don't want to go with this many, but it took this many to make me happy and have it match up with all of the abilities:

    Strength, Agility, Perception, Presence, Fortitude, Will, and Knowledge.

    Will = will power, used for magic
    Presence = charisma, leadership, persuasion
    Knowledge - your ability to hold information in your head, so mostly book learning things.

    Just putting to list up to give you an idea about what things games have used as attributes besides the D&D model. Hopefully, you can have a smaller list and still be happy with it.

    1. That's a good list of attributes in your post above. I could see those working well. Here is the biggest problem I seem to have with my attribute list - I can not seem to get it "just right" in the context of being relevant to the game, a short list, and balanced. What I mean by "balanced" is that if there are physical and mental attributes then I want the same number of both; two each is what I am shooting for. I know it sounds OCDish but an odd number of attributes throws me off for some reason.

      If you don't mind, could you go into a little bit more detail about the difference between the Knowledge attribute you use and Intelligence?

    2. I suppose it all comes down to how you parse things:

      Intelligence is something like IQ, reasoning ability, and how fast it takes to learn something.

      Knowledge represents memory, retained knowledge, and applied knowledge.

      To illustrate the difference in terms of game play, here is how I see it:

      Suppose there is a puzzle of some sort, like a riddle. The player goes, my PC has an intelligence of 18. He is a super genius. My PC would be able to solve the riddle so I want to roll against my intelligence to solve it.

      How is the GM is resolve this? If he doesn't allow the role and expects the players to figure it out, then he is limiting the character's mental abilities to that of the players. Intelligence becomes meaningless as an actual representation of the PC.

      If you have a knowledge attribute instead, this would not be a problem. The GM says that how much you know and how well you are at leaning things is not the same as how well you can reason. So you can't make a dice roll.

      Knowledge does permit the character to say roll against it to remember something. If the player doesn't remember what an NPC said, chances are his character would, so a roll against knowledge would be allowed.

      I have an electronics skill. It is listed as a knowledge skill. Now, there are a lot of average to slightly dumb people that have worked successfully in electronics. To say that electronics is tied to intelligence means that only "smart" people can do it, or do it well. That just isn't true.

      This is my personal hang up, but studies have demonstrated that IQ determines how well you reason and how fast you learn, but in most cases, even low IQ people can learn a task and do it well. There are Asian immigrants who have children with an IQ of around 85 and they do calculus and get engineering degrees. They do this because they put in work. The difference between them and a normal IQ, is that a normal IQ would learn it faster. The normal IQ would also have, in general, better reasoning ability. But, it does happen where someone of 85 and 100 IQ are both equal in math.

      Anyway, those are the difference as I take it and why I did knowledge instead of intelligence. I hope it at least makes sense even if you disagree.

      For you, you need to some up with 4 or 6 attributes then.

      Physical - agility, health/fortitude (make strength something trainable?)

      Mental - knowledge, willpower

      If you add strength make in, then you need one more mental power.

  3. Hmm. Blog is eating comments so here I go again . . .

    Intelligence = IQ, reasoning capacity, problem solving, how quickly you learn, how well you can abstract, applying knowledge, approaching problems from various ways.

    Knowledge = capacity to store content. It is what you know, how much you know, memory.

    If an RPG like D&D, 18 INT is 180 IQ. If the PC comes along a riddle, and the player doesn't know the answer, the PC should know the answer. The player can reasonably demand a role against INT to solve the riddle. Certainly something with a 180 IQ should be able to solve a basic puzzle and if he can't, why expect your 100 IQ actual player to be able to?

    If you just have a knowledge skill, then there is no INT to roll against. On the other hand, suppose the player doesn't remember the directions that an NPC gave his PC. Certainly the actual PC would remember, so a roll could be used to determine if the PC does and the GM can then inform the player that it is the left fork instead of the right one.

    Maybe one way to think of it is that knowledge is education, while intelligence is IQ. One can be learned and improved, and the other one, for the most part, you are just born with. There are numerous studies showing that people with average to low IQ can still learn all of the "smart" things, it just takes them longer.

    You will want 4 or 6 attributes. How about:

    Physical - Health (combo of strength and constitution) and Agility
    Mental - Knowledge and Willpower

    You can make strength a skill if you want. If you want it an attribute, then add it to the physical. You just need to come up with another mental one. Perception maybe. What you perceive and how you perceive it is a mental ability. Some people notice details and others don't.

    1. Oops. Sorry. The first post wasn't showing so I put in another one and now they are both showing.

    2. Just a quick reply to say that I will write more tomorrow BUT it has been an enlightening read. I am going to go back over it all and absorb it. Your posts made a lot of sense to me and I appreciate you taking the time to go into some of your reasoning. It's going to be an early day tomorrow so I will get back with you.

    3. I have been running through the attributes and I think what I am going to shoot for is 6 total split into 3 physical and 3 mental:

      (Physical) Strength, Constitution, & Agility
      (Mental) Knowledge, Will, & Perception.

      I think that's a good start BUT I may find that after I need to make changes. For instance, I am going to take your advice Darius and start coming up with a list of talents matched up to attributes. If I get very few talents related to one attribute then I am going to see about changing it to something else. Thanks again for the explanation about Knowledge vs. Intelligence. It really helped me to look at it a little differently. Now I am off to come up with a list of Talents...

    4. Decide how specific you want talents to be. You have very specific, say swords, then less specific, bladed weapons, then broad, say melee weapons.

      Also decide if you want things that look more like specific skills, or skill-bundles. This is related to how specific you want to be. For example, do you want a skill for pick-pocketing, or so you want something more like thievery. Thievery would include things such as pick pocketing, palming, picking locks, etc.

      Most game systems prefer things that are more specific over general. Also, they prefer things that are closer to single skills, than skill bundles. In PJ, I choose skill bundles. Then I added optional rules to allow for more customizing if people want to.

      Many game systems are inconsistent. They will have very general skills mixed with very specific ones. You have something like a survival skill that permits surviving in any environment and being a McGyver of the wilderness, then you have another skill like pistols or driving. I don't like that.

      When it comes to talents, don't try to reinvent the wheel. Decide what general approach you want, then find a game that comes close to it. Copy its skill list, then refine it. This means breaking some up, combing them, removing some, and adding some new ones. Maybe just start with something like GURPS and copy their list and go from there.

    5. Good, solid advice all around. I am working on it now and hope to post something in the next day or two.

  4. Replies
    1. Cool. I'm enjoying the comments and discussion on the attributes.

  5. Or you could go freeform and get rid of all attributes more or less.
    Maybe just six things that you could describe your character. If you want the describes thing better then you say Very, if even better then Extremely. For example: Strong+1 , Very Strong+2 , Extremely Strong +3 Agile +1, Very Agile +2, Extremely Agile +3. Everything else defaults to average +0.

    Or not even have any attributes and describe the character as Lorn the Dwarf Beserker of the Hill people. Average hit points would be 3 but since he is a Beserker he has more let say 10 for a tough combatant. Instead of 2d6 plus attribute plus skill why not roll number or less and boom you have result. 2 the lowest and 11 the highest with a 12 always a miss.

    Going with the attribute above in the OP Might Intellect and Prowess you could have let's say 16 points to split between three attributes. Might 8 Intellect 4 and Prowess 4. On a 2d6 roll an 8 or less and he hits with a weapon, 4 or less he hits with a bow, and 4 or less he cast a spell.

    He has 8 hit points with a Might of 8


    double Might and he has 16 hit points.

    Maybe what is rolled is damage plus weapon modifier.

    Goblins attack built on 10 points M 5 I 2 P 3!

    Roll 2d6 plus Prowess for initiative. Combat goes in that order.

  6. Hmmm.....
    another viable method to this system is detailed in your reply. I have no practical experience - other than reading them - with freeform roleplaying rules so I do not know if I could actually do it justice. I may have to give that a try, though.