D&D attributes out! Alternative Stats for our games



Thinking about alternative stats, I think that there are many approaches that would work fairly well for ICRPG.

One would be to adopt the four attributes from Shadow of the Demon Lord that has already been mentioned: Might, Agility (or Finesse), Intellect (Wits), and Willpower (or Spirit, Resolve). Rename as needed. If you believe that “wisdom” things like sensory perception is distinct from Intellect, consider adding Perception as its own attribute.

My mind also keeps going back to something that Hank mentions quite often when he talks about his core principles of ICRPG: natural language. Natural language lies behind a lot of the terminology that Hank utilizes for ICRPG: easy and hard rolls, effort, near/close/far distances, etc. So I have wondered what more natural language would potentially look like for the ICRPG stats. I do believe that other systems come close. For example, Savage Worlds uses the stat called “Smarts.” This seems like it fits the criteria for natural language, where we may say that a person is using their ‘smarts.’ But we may likewise say that a person is using their “Brains,” which is another term we could use for the same general area as “Smarts.” Either Brains or Smarts seem like terms that a new player could EASILY pick up and understand.

From there, I am less sure as that obviously depends on how many stats you want. I would favor 4-5 stats since that minimizes redundancy and speeds things up. But an approach that adopted more natural language for the stats seems like a good fit for ICRPG.


In my traveler homebrew I use the name of body locations for the stats (Head, Arms, Hands, Legs and Power), as it seemed easy for the players to understand. However I never really know how to use the Power stat, as I just put all the skills that don’t make sense for the Head right there lol. Then I read that Angry DM article that was posted above and it has been making me think about the bright lines of my system.


I’ve taken Microlite and ICRPG [and a smattering of Savage Worlds] and bashed them into my own game. It works very well.


I was THIS close to adding this to my character sheet for my next campaign, but you have to remember that the core stats are the main way players can choose to interact with the world. The less options, the less “What stat should I use/how do I want to go about doing this?” there is, which I know for a lot of players is a corner stone of TTRPGs. Also consider Stealth and Hiding. Its a key “skill” that is hard to categorize in real life, but generally its placed under dexterity. Did I really want every character with good BODY (I called it BODY to be more synonymous to both STR and DEX, as well as fit into the body/mind/spirit motiff) like fighters and brutes to be good at stealth? That’s one of the major diverging forks of character creation.

Now it sounds like your system was created though play and all your players are into it, which is always better that sitting around thinking of rule alone like some sort of goblin, so your probably good- but just remember the repercussions of reducing the amount of stats, especially in games like ICRPG without skills and the stats being the only options.


Please elaborate, sounds interesting.


I would still probably prefer switching to 4-5 stats, but taking what @jakewoodtracy said into consideration and AngryGM’s article on bright lines, then I would also entertain another path: more stats.

]If the stats are the tools for interacting with the world, then make them clear and apparent. Here I would look at two systems (at least): Warhammer Fantasy RP (4E) and Fantasy Age. (And I do believe that FAGE was influenced by WFRP.)

WFRP (4E): Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill, Toughness, Agility, Initiative, Dexterity, Intelligence, Willpower, Fellowship

Fantasy Age: Accuracy, Communication, Constitution, Dexterity, Fighting, Intelligence, Perception, Strength, Willpower

I’m not necessarily a fan of the specific configurations that these two systems selected, but I do think that the bright lines are fairly clear when it comes to how PCs will interact with the world via their attributes. If bright lines for PC interaction with the world is the goal - which I think was an incredibly excellent point raised - then I do think that being able to point to stats like Communication, Perception, and Willpower is far clearer and more intuitive for new players than explaining the overlapping mess found with Wisdom and Charisma. A new player can grasp that “I use Communication to speak; I use Perception to perceive/sense; I use Intelligence to know; etc.” I doubt that Hank would switch to a different set of stats outside of the familiar D&D ones, but I do think that the bright lines of scene interaction would work incredibly well for ICRPGs focus on dungeon crawls, quick, fast-paced gameplay, and being new player/GM friendly.

Re Wisdom as Common Sense: Why do we even need a stat to represent Common Sense? Because that seems like something that would come out through how the player plays their character. If we are playing a game of D&D, then that high Wisdom cleric will still likely be making some senseless decisions that do not necessarily reflect Wisdom as reflecting common sense. But if we look at the stats as the PC mechanics of scene interaction, then having a Common Sense stat is kinda unnecessary.


I have always liked the idea of stats as Adverbs.

Stats are the primary way that characters will interact with the world. So when a player is telling you What their character will do and How they will do it. The “What” could be anything(players are crazy sometimes), but the “How” is usually tied to a particular stat.

Defining the way you want your characters to interact with your world is what creates stats.

This is why I have always like FATE:ACCELERATED’s stats. They define How characters interact with that world.

If you are going for a specific feel or theme for your game, then I would suggest having stats that reflect that.

Whatever you end up doing, just know that the characters are in part defined by How they do things. The choice of How characters interact with the world is one I feel is worthy of a discussion with your group if you are changing things.

But if you are working on modifying the system without a group in mind yet, then go for it! I wouldn’t hesitate to try new things for a session or two.

In my local group, I have become known as the GM who has a new mechanic to try out every week, Lol. We are all crazy lumpy-headed weirdos here. So trying new stats and mechanics is part of the fun!

Sorry, I rambled a bit.

Game On!


Honestly this whole thread has made me rethink my whole approach to characters in my used tobe traveler homebrew system. Its made me wonder if you have attributes (characteristics, stats, whatever) and skills your just adding unnecssecary complexity IMHO. So I’m now toying with the idea of just representing a character with a skills list, instead of rolling for your attributes you just roll for your skill points - I reinforce this by having certain attributes become skills (ie muscle, and using the DnD 3e saving throws to represent the other physical and mental stats) and using a Storyteller system Wound Level system for the “damage sponge” attribute.

This further made me add a condition based dice modifier system, since in traveler its a attribute DM + a skill DM, giving a +1 DM (dice modifier shorthand) for each condition the character has of: Healthy, Rested and Confident. These are lost once they are damaged, tired and after they miss their first skill check (no longer confident).

Now I’m wondering if head wounds should take longer to heal than body wounds, man awesome thread guys my GM brain is in the cosmos! Maybe I should eat something?


Ooh! If Stats are the primary means a character interacts with the world. Why doesn’t the world interact with the characters through the same mechanism?

What if your HEART or HP was divided between your stats. And then the world deals EFFORT to your stats.

Let’s say you have a “Sneaky” Stat at 3.

Your character is attempting to sneak around a goblin encampment and fail their attempt.

The DM rolls the Effort dice, or whatever the system you are using does. And your character takes 2 Sneaky damage.

The next time you try to sneak around, it will be harder because now you only add +1. And when your Sneaky stat is empty, you are no longer Sneaky!


Warrior, Rogue, Mage is an unbelievably elegant system.


Jadepunk for Fate has something similar, but instead of ranking your Fate Accelerated’s Approaches, you use Professions.



That is pretty cool. I’ll check it out!


Then to heal it you could require some sort of cool thing or a piece of hidden lore dealing with that skill. Like, using your Sneak example a player could have found an ancient book on keeping to the shadows or they could successfully use a distraction during a conflict to get closer to their target without the target noticing.


And what do you think of the Stats? (Copied from another source https://www.reddit.com/r/RPGdesign/comments/9uedjc/attributes_across_rpgs/#thing_t1_e942uhe )

2 types

Strength (STR) - Raw physical power. Shoving, Grappling, Smashing, Breaking.
Agility (AGL) - Quick reactions, and whole body control. Dodging, Acrobatics, Climbing, Initiative, and Stealth.
Dexterity (DEX) - Hand-Eye Coordination, Dexterity, finesse, physical accuracy. Used for attack rolls, sleight of hand, etc.
Constitution (CON) - Physical toughness. Resistance. Increases HP/Stamina pool


Intelligence (INT) - Knowlege, logic, math. left-brain stuff
Empathy (EMP) - Understanding people: gather information, detect lies, insight, sense motive. Also performance and any creative art skills.
Perception (PER) - Alertness, Perception, and combat Initiative.
Willpower (WIL) - Mental Strength. Resisting pain, control and weariness, and forcing your will on others.

In theory thiw should be even more accurate.


You are essentially talking about HP CHUNKS that are spread around your STATS. Fun idea, but it has a couple of nasty downsides.
a) It is a bit complicated and determining with stat gets damaged can sometimes be unclear. You can choose it randomly but that is another step and doesn’t always make sense. “Uh, why did my WIS get damaged from that guy’s blade?” Also what will happen if I get stabbed in my gut and my STR, DEX, CON HPs are empty but my other stats are not? Do I start dying even if I some HP left? Lots of questions.
b) When there is a possibility that PCs can get weaker, they tend to avoid it. This may result in games where most of PCs’ time is spent hiding and/or avoiding damage.

HP is an abstract pool and it is precisely so for reasons above. Lots of disparate HP pools don’t seem to bring anything exciting to the table when I think about it.


Hmm, those are good points.

  1. The stat that is damaged would be ground in the fiction of the event happening. I primarily see this in a players-roll only type of system.

So in that case the stat that is damaged is the one they are trying to roll. When the stat is 0 then they can no longer roll the stat.

If, for example, they take an attack and can’t defend it. Then I think they would die, rather than have the other stats get damaged. I mean, their antagonist is trying to kill them, after all.

In the scenario of players rolling all the dice and you describe a bandit attacking them and say their STR stat is 0. They can’t try to block the attack with STR, but they could try to dodge with DEX. If they then fail, their DEX is damaged.

I guess this leads to having a different Failure Condition for each stat. When the stats is 0, You can no longer roll with that stat.

Think less like HP and more Ability with a certain stat.

  1. As far as players not taking initiative for fear of growing weak and losing stats. I don’t have a solid answer.

You could make the refresh condition where they get their stats “healed” easier to use or create. Or you could provide a meta-resource they could use to empower their stats. Maybe something else? I don’t know.

  1. It is a bit more complicated than I would like. For sure.

But I think the idea in general is still a good one. Implementation details definitely need to be streamlined, but that is where I am at right now. I just offered it as food for thought.

Then again, use what works for your table.


My rules began with ICRPG and the more I hacked, the more it became it’s own thing. For me, All rolls involving an attack that requires your body to do it… you roll the 20 to beat the TN number as always but add Agility (Dexterity) to the roll. This accommodates those who have a greater natural skill when it comes to using their body. Being an athlete all my days, this translates to all the times I tried a sport of any kind for the first time compared to others and how well they did on their first try and how I often grasped it easily and they didn’t kind of thing. Some folks are just naturally more able when it comes to this area. I then have strength stat come into play in the damage part of the equation. The stronger you are, the more power you will generate when doing something. This means the weapon will hit harder, stab further/deeper, smash flatter and so on. If I was issuing out a long bow… I might say that a minimum strength stat of +2 is needed to pull it back to max which would allow for say… 200 yards. You could say that for every point over +2, you get an additional 10 yrds. +5 would be 3 over so 30 yards for total of 230 yrds with the long bow. Something like that is how I would do it as it fits with my system that is in place now.

I also allow a maximum of +5 per attribute. They cannot surpass it unless its a loot item or magic spell that pushes that stat higher. To me, attributes represent your genetic ability/restrictions. We all have them. I’m slim built and agile but then my buddy is chubby, densly muscled, and slower. I might then have a strength stat of +1 and his a +4. My Agility stat might be +4 and his +1. The attribute stats represent your physical and mental base without being enhanced by stuff or training or magic etc. Then, once those stats are in place… you can level up and add more if you lift weights and grow swole, power lift for strength, run marathons to increase constitution, study and learn to raise intelligence and so on. I like to add skills under attributes if I want to be more specific. Say I have +4 agility and strength +1. I have studied under a swordsman for 8 yrs and fairly skilled at it. I would add Sword fighting as a skill under Agility and give it a ranking… maybe +2. It’s in this way that I differentiate between what I can do if I was relying on my mind and body vs using tools or things learned. They work together often which is why I add skills under attributes and combine the numbers. Sword fighter +2 plus Agility +4 = +6 bonus when attacking in a sword fight. My buddy might be a +2 sword fighter but Agility of +1 so he would have a +3 bonus on his attack roll. I’m just that much more agile in a sword fight than him. Mind… if he hits… the damage he would do is greater than I would.

I also use skills in my system. For example… Slack line. I allow players to level up skills but they have a cap of +3. Slack Line is an Agility skill so it would fall under that attribute. In my rules… you add your skill level to your attribute level. Let’s say Agility was +4. That means all Slack line attempt rolls would be +7 bonus added to the roll. Because the Attribute caps at 5 and the skills at 3, the max can only be 8. I realized by doing this that I can literally set some TN’s at over 20 now. I think fighting a young adult dragon in its prime that moves fast, is large and tough and durable… might have a TN of 26 to hit it. Because you have your roll of 20 and your bonus of 8 if maxed out… you can potentially roll 28 and hit it. I threw in a bonus if you roll a natural 20… you get to roll damage plus ultimate and then you roll a d6. The number you roll is multiplied by what you got on damage. To explain… you roll d6 weapon damage and get a 4. You roll ultimate and get a 5. Total of 9. Now roll d6 and you roll a 5. 5x9 = 45 points of damage. The real treat that makes it exciting for the players is a 6 is a kill. You get lucky and hit that sweet spot on the baddie and it kills them. Like Matt Mercer says “how do you want to do this”? is what I ask them and the table goes wild. The way they come up with the death is always a riot.

Oh… you can add Long Bow as a skill under Dexterity using my method above. Dexterity cap out at 5 and Long bow skill cap out at 3 for max total capable of +8 on attempt rolls. Because a long bow does do more damage… you just tell them they do D8 damage instead of D6 weapon damage. Or D10. You choose.

Anyways… I went off topic on that last bit. Hope this gives you idea’s on your home brew


INT and WIS are separated in my home brew as follows… Intelligence involves all things learned, studied, taught and Wisdom is all things intuitive. Gut feelings, emotions, that kind of stuff. For magic users… I broke it out in to two types… you are a learned student of magic. Meaning you have studied and memorized and follow the books and such or… you are naturally imbued with the power. Your god perhaps or some other kind of way that the magic just flows through you.


If only players roll, #1 can definitely work.

Actually now I think about it, #1 can still work in the default case of GM rolling the attacks of monsters. In that case the attacker chooses which STAT to attack and rolls accordingly. A bladed moster can choose STR or CON, a monster casting charm spell can choose WIS or CHA for example. This can be interesting.

For #2… Getting weaker with each hit sucks so we should delay that. Here is a cumbersome solution for this: STATS and their bonuses should be separate like 5 points = +1, 10 = +2. This way the STATS will have room for getting hit lots of times without losing effectiveness.

#3: Yeah this is more complicated but can be fun.


Your Frankenstein hack is similar to D&D but a tamer and a saner version, which is always nice.

I find having skills needlessly restrictive and not worth the complexity but your version looks like TAGS to me. You define a skill under a STAT, if I understand correctly. You are free to add any skill under a STAT. This is better than rigid skill systems, that’s for sure. I just don’t see the benefit for me though.