Idea for Re-Designed Core Attributes (BitD inspired)



Hi Everyone,

Fair warning, this is a long one. Skip down to the picture below if you don’t want all the annoying words to follow. :wink: Also, yes, I’m aware this topic has come up a few times before but I think I may be going a different way with this.

Like many of you, I’ve collected a lot of games, systems, and settings over the years. I really like bits and pieces of all of them, and end up trying to cobble them all together into some kind of frankenstein game. Though they rarely work in practicality, I enjoy the sewing and stitching of it all.

Perhaps this is why I’ve never been fond of the OSR Base stats (Str/Dex/Con/etc). Many games have tried to replace these over the years, some narrowing down into broader categories, others trying to broaden it out with wide skill trees.

The thing that really resonated with me with ICRPG was Hank’s design philosophies he espoused in his video introducing the core rules. In particular, his pursuit of natural language and his desire to avoid derivative stats. Which brings me back to the core attributes.

There are several things about the core attributes that never really worked for me, the first being that core attributes are actually jargon and they don’t fit the requirement of natural language. I get why this is overlooked though, as these stats have been around so long they are ingrained in our collective psyche and have become invisible to us. While these stats don’t inhibit game play for me, they do feel awkward and out of place. Uncomfortable even. They just irk me, and judging by some of the other posts, I’m not alone. I find myself constantly trying to push them out of my games as a result.

The other problem with these stats is that they are too broad, covering too many situations, and reducing overall diversity of the characters. Games have compensated over the years by adding skills. However, these present their own problems. Namely being that they fail the derivative stat test. As most skill checks are actually just Attribute tests with some extra seasoning piled on. I agree with the recent trend of getting rid of these, because in their current iteration they are not distinct enough from the core attributes to justify their existence.

However, there is one game that I felt really nailed the Attribute/Skill system really well, by striking a middle ground between the two. However, its decidedly a niche game that doesn’t translate well to the hack/slash D&D Clones. That system is Blades in the Dark.

So in my never ending pursuit of trying to move away from all of this, I took a stab at trying to translate this to something passable in the ICRPG system and I think it actually came out pretty well. Obviously, this would require other changes in the system (Loots, CharGen, etc) but that shouldn’t be too difficult from a DIY perspective. I think the real trick would be balancing all of this.

Without further blabbering, I present thee with the below;

Using Attributes:

There are 3 Attributes, Prowess, Knowledge, and Spirit. Each attribute has a rating from 0 to 4 that tells you how many points to add to rolls of that type.

The rating for each attribute is equal to the number of dots in the first column under that attribute. The more well rounded a character is with a particular set of actions, the better that attribute will be.

Actions can be rolled against attributes, just as they can with action types.

Action Ratings:

There are 12 Action Ratings (below) that player characters use to overcome obstacles. Each action has a rating from 0 to 4, that tells you how many points to add to rolls of that type.

Action Ratings don’t describe skill or training, and you are free to describe how the character performs an action based on the type of person they are, and their own individual history. The same action can be performed in multiple ways by different characters.

You choose which action to perform to overcome an obstacle by describing what the character is attempting to do. Actions that are poorly suited to the situation, or which the player has little background or experience with may be less effective, and may even be a HARD roll.

Bonus Values:

Each attribute and action has two values, the base value (represented by dots) and a bonus value. The base value is limited to a MAX of 4, and is determined at the start of the game, and modified occasionally as the game progresses.

The Loot Bonus is an additional value that can be granted by loot that your character has equipped. These bonuses can allow your character to exceed the natural limits of mortals, and surpass their base values.

PROWESS (STR + DEX) - Physical skill, expertise, and acumen
Athletics, Acrobatics, Physical Skills

  • SNEAK - Move stealthily
  • DODGE - Avoid by sudden quick movement
  • FIGHT - Attack with weapons or body
  • AIM - Accuracy with ranged weapons/tools

KNOWLEDGE (INT + WIS) - Quality of possessed knowledge
Knowledge Checks

  • STUDY - Investigate and analyze a subject or situation
  • DECIPHER - Decrypt, Understand, and Interpret
  • MAKE - Construct, create, or craft
  • WEAVE - Ability to draw extraplanar energies from one realm to another
    • Arcane casting

SPIRIT (CHA + CON) - Coordination of mind and body to derive inner strength and energy
Death Saves, Certain Spells, Certain Abilities

  • CONVINCE - Persuade, coerce, convince
  • FOCUS - Ability to concentrate and exercise self control
    • Mental Endurance, Will Saves
  • ENDURE - Ability to withstand pain and discomfort
    • Endurance, Con Saves
  • CHANNEL - Ability allow entities to use your body as a conduit for the will
    • Divine/Extraplanar/supernatural casting

A few of things I like about this;

  1. It merges the skills into the core attributes allowing you to have both and neither.
  2. It uses natural language terms. “I attempt to CONVINCE the Orc by convincing him that his father sent us to rescue him.”
  3. The attributes are narrative driven, instead of rules driven. They allow the player to work them from their imagination, instead of a defined set of rules.
  4. It doesn’t use derivative stats, as each attribute stands on its own, and doesn’t refer to another attribute.
  5. Its more granular than the core stats, allowing more variety in character builds.
  6. Unlike skills, it doesn’t make the game more complicated. It doesn’t require complex explanations of what things mean, it doesn’t require lots of plus and minus math, it doesn’t use tags in a convoluted way.
  7. It finally allows me to have negative stats. As I can apply hard rolls to HARD rolls to any stat with no points in, without totally gimping a character.

Obviously, this could probably still use some balance tuning, but before I invest more time in this, I guess I just wanted some feedback from like minded DIYers.

Brutal Honesty appreciated, is this something you would enjoy at your table? Or am I just barking up the wrong tree here? How do you see this stacking up against the normal fair, core attributes, and or skills?


This is really impressive! Thank you for sharing.


Thanks for the kind words!


I dig it - I’m a big fan of using something other than the classic six stats to help remove D&D bias from the game, which is also why I always run new systems with non-fantasy games first to help distance thigns

Other stats I was thinking of shifting to were the following


  • Edge: Quickness, agility, and prowess in ranged combat.
  • Heart: Courage, willpower, empathy, sociability, and loyalty.
  • Iron: Physical strength, endurance, aggressiveness, and prowess in close combat.
  • Shadow: Sneakiness, deceptiveness, and cunning.
  • Wits: Expertise, knowledge, and observation

FATE Accelerated

  • Careful A Careful action is when you pay close attention to detail and take your time to do the job right. Lining up a long-range arrow shot. Attentively standing watch. Disarming a bank’s alarm system.
  • Clever A Clever action requires that you think fast, solve problems, or account for complex variables. Finding the weakness in an enemy swordsman’s style. Finding the weak point in a fortress wall. Fixing a computer
  • Flashy A Flashy action draws attention to you; it’s full of style and panache. Delivering an inspiring speech to your army. Embarrassing your opponent in a duel. Producing a magical fireworks display
  • Forceful A Forceful action isn’t subtle—it’s brute strength. Wrestling a bear. Staring down a thug. Casting a big, powerful magic spell.
  • Quick A Quick action requires that you move quickly and with dexterity. Dodging an arrow. Getting in the first punch. Disarming a bomb as it ticks 3… 2… 1…
  • Sneaky A Sneaky action is done with an emphasis on misdirection, stealth, or deceit. Talking your way out of getting arrested. Picking a pocket. Feinting in a sword fight


This is interesting, I will need a bit of time to roll it around in the old noggin. However, one thing that stands out is Weave. When you have Weave right next to Make it is a bit confusing (since weaving can be a from of making). My suggestion would be to call it Arcane.


Yeah, I think all of that could be fit into something like this.

The cool thing about this system is that its more readily hackable than the existing 6-Stat system. You can easily change any of the words here, and get a different feel or experience. Further, it wouldn’t break anything in the game to do so, as long as you made sure all your actions were accounted for.


Yeah, that is fair, I had a hard time naming that one. I was really looking for verbs, as I really like the idea of fitting the action into a natural language sentence when saying what you want to do.

Like, “I want to CHANNEL my gods wrath, and smite him into last week!!”

The other word I had on my mind was Attune, like in BitD, but it seemed to close too channel.

I’ll have to think on that a bit, there is probably a better Verb I can use.


Some ideas off the top of my head:



Really cool! One question- the first point on the actions has a line separating it from the other three. Why is that? I might have missed it…


Many months ago, there was a thread about attributes/abilities. In it I said that mechanics and complexity are subjective - different people like different amounts. I’ll say it again.

I understand your frustration with those six attributes, how they reduce diversity (by using a reduced design space) and how they are abstract and silly. Yet they are only mechanical tools and abstractions to have a “game” at the table. If D&D’s (and therefore ICRPG’s) six stats (attributes) repulse you that much, it means that you have to change it for your game.

Objectively, there is no right or wrong here; there are only degrees and tradeoffs.

Personally I don’t like those six stats either but they are simply mechanical tools to achieve a goal at the table and I accept them as such: the act of character building and the thrill of uncertainty by rolling dice (which depends on the said character buliding). Just like you, I hate skills too.

I’d say your approach is sound. You can easily replace the six stats with this system provided you are willing to adjust each and every other mechanic that depends on stats. The only thing to consider here is the level of complexity you want to have in your game.

Since you also want to hear some specific feedback, here are mine:
SNEAK and DODGE stick out like sore thumbs. SNEAK will be underused, DODGE will be overused.
DECIPHER is way too specific and will be underused.
MAKE I’m not sure about. Good to have it but might be too specific for most characters.
WEAVE I’m not too keen on; might be replaced with ARCANA/ARCANE ilke @rpgerminator suggested.
CHANNEL might be replaced with DIVINE or something but it doesn’t sound bad, maybe not clear for newcomers but that’s it.

Also SNEAK and DECIPHER really are too specific to be on this list but it is almost guaranteed that someone will want it. So it is a difficult problem to solve. SNEAK can be replaced with Shadow as s5photog suggested but that will break the expectations of players who are familiar with D&D and Pathfinder.

I’d suggest taking a look at @s5photog’s suggestions of Ironsworn. There are some good ideas there. However I don’t think FATE’s ASPECTS are the way to go; I find them fundamentally incompatible with a STAT driven game.

Keep in mind that increasing the number of attributes will mean that characters will be good at less things and bad at more things (unless you want to drown them in STAT POINTS, which goes against the spirit of this system).

I may sound overly negative but that’s just my silly tone. Overall, I think this idea is great and I think you should implement this in your games. I just pointed out some weaknesses I saw. Actually I was thinking about doing something similar with my ICRPG game but my tasteless players want to play D&D 5E again. Grr.

Also remember: An idea doesn’t have to be perfect to be implemented.


This is my opinion…
I think it’s too diverse and adds to the cognitive load of the game. As an alternative solution you could just provide a list of these “skills” to the players as examples of what skill roll is associated to the stat. That may benefit the GM and the Players.

Game On!


The first column, represents the stats for the whole section. For example, If I place one point into Sneak, Dodge, and Fight, but none into Aim, then my PROWESS would be worth 3 points, because I have 3 points in the first column. Its meant to encourage diversity across a group, rather than dumping everything into a couple of stats.

Thanks for your feedback! Keep in mind, that these terms are meant to be used creatively. Sneak doesn’t just mean stealth (in the D&D sense). It could also mean to sneak something into your pocket. Really, as creative as you can get the GM to sign off on.

However, there is no doubt that certain attributes will be more heavily used than others (just like in other systems). Things like Fight, Aim, Dodge, Channel, and Weave all have combat implications that will make them more relevant to a wider audience. Others, like Sneak, Make, Decipher, Endure, etc will be more niche to certain characters trying to tell certain stories. I think that its fairly common across games that not every character pursues every avenue. I’m ok with that.

However, that doesn’t mean this list shouldn’t change. Some of these I’m not super keen on yet, and I struggled with a few of these. It just so happens that some attributes don’t necessarily have as much as others. So coming up with 4 for each section was fairly difficult. So it may make sense to change some of these.

Yes, this is true. However, I’ve considered giving them more points up front. By standard ICRPG rules, we give them 6 points for 6 attributes at Character Creation. Using this, it would go that we would give them 12. Further, to promote diversity, it may make sense to tie more of these points to Type and Life Form.

For example, if you choose a Human Wizard, maybe you have to devote 6 points to Knowledge, and divide the rest as you choose among the other attributes. This admittedly still needs to be worked out, but there are levers to be pulled to finagle this balance wise. Play-testing definitely needs to happen.

I don’t know that I’d go as far as to say they repulse me, that seems harsh. However, the do annoy me in the mild way that a little brother might. I still let him come to the games, I don’t want to be mean after all, but if I could find a way to get him to play with his own friends I probably would.

That’s my long winded way of saying, I find it out of place, but reluctantly let it stay in the game for lack of a better option. Because for all the gripes, the base 6 stats have been around for as long as they have because they are a damn good solution, even if its not perfect.

Thanks for sharing your opinion. For sure, not everyone’s cup of tea. I see the argument for the cognitive load, and thats one of the main reasons I tried to make these verbs to enhance the natural language of it. Ideally, you wouldn’t need to think about what your doing, it should just point itself out when you say what you are trying to do. If that aspect of it misses, I’m not sure its really an improvement.


Under PROWESS you have SNEAK, DODGE, FIGHT, and AIM. Three of these are very DEX based. If I wanted to lift a fallen beam off my crewmate’s leg it is akward to say “I FIGHT the beam off his leg”. I understand the desire to use verbs to describe actions but verbs are usually specific. Off the top of my head, I would combine SNEAK and the speed and agility portion of DODGE into MOVE, Here you can say “I MOVE stealthily pass the guard” or “I MOVE quickly up the drain pipe to the roof” or “I MOVE carefully along the ledge”. I would combine FIGHT and AIM into ATTACK. Here you can specify the attack type with a weapon or fighting style: “I ATTACK with my longsword”, “I ATTACK the bunker with burst fire from my pulse rifle”, or “I ATTACK the goon with a spinning dragon kick.” I would then add DEFEND to replace DODGE. Here I can specify how I am defending: “I DEFEND myself by dodging into cover”, “I DEFEND the princess from the dragon fire with my shield”, or “I grit my teeth and soak the attack with my armor to DEFEND myself.” Finally, I would add USE for everything else: “I USE my strength and leverage to lift the beam off his leg”, “I USE my sonic screwdriver to open the panel”, or “I USE my nimble fingers and my lucky lockpicks to pop the lock off”. BITD and other RPGs like Apocalypse World are narrative and the game play is more about HOW you do it rather than WHAT you do. I hope this gives you some ideas on making this work for you. Keep on creating.


Actually, the correct check here would be PROWESS to lift it, but if you wanted to destroy it instead, FIGHT may make sense here.

Interestingly, a lot of this parallels a lot of my own thinking at different points in the process. At one point, MOVE, DEFEND, and ATTACK were all part of the paradigm before I broken them out differently. I’ll likely be moving these around further, and may try out some of these again in my next iteration.

Thanks for the input!


What you’re doing looks pretty cool.

It’d be a nice hybrid I think and great for a homebrew.

I’m interested to see where this goes. When I look at I see a conversion to BiTD (Awesome game and I am a fan of John Harper). Which is great for certain types of adventures and campaigns. I also like the comments using FATE, and FATE Accelerated approaches. If you don’t have it check out Green Ronin’s " FATE of Freeport Companion.

They specifically designed that using the traditional attributes and elements of FATE Core and Accelerated.

Games that reduce attributes and add skills seem to be focusing on more specific usage, rather than speed of play and flexibility. I’ve played and Game Mastered since '79 and I’ve found that the simpler systems are my preference.

I think ICRPG dwells in that “Goldilocks Zone” especially since like most older gamers I simply ignore things that get in the way.

Keep at it. I’m curious to see this evolve into its final version.


You might know what my question will be is. I am thinking of how we can use this online. When will it be a fillable PDF? And When will it be on Roll20?


Here is the Dresden Files version:
-Flair: An action that draws attention to you, replete with style and panache. Examples: Delivering an inspiring speech to your army, embarrassing your opponent in a duel, producing a magical fireworks display.
-Focus: Time-consuming action in which close attention is paid to detail so the task is properly executed on the first attempt. Examples: Lining up a long-range sniper rifle shot, attentively standing watch, disarming a bank’s alarm system.
-Force: A display of brute strength rather than subtlety. Examples: Wrestling a troll, staring down a werewolf, casting a powerful magic spell. kkGuile: An effort focusing on misdirection, stealth, or deceit. Examples: Talking your way out of getting arrested, picking a pocket, feinting in a sword fight.
-Haste: A dexterous movement with alacrity. Examples: Dodging a shot, landing the first punch, disarming a bomb as it ticks 3…2…1.
-Intellect: Quick thinking, the solving of complex problems, or accounting for numerous variables at once. Examples: Code breaking, outwitting a Fae courtier, counting cards in a poker game.


I do not remember seeing how many points would you give to the build?


I like the premises, for sure.

In terms of layout, filling dots is easier for character generation, with the bonus to being able to get rid of that BASE column and keep the loot easy to reference bonus number to use in the game.

I wanted to do something like that, but with four bigger categories, 2 “physical” 2 “mental”, like the 2 colored 4 poker card suits. Like a STR+CON (warrior), STR+WIS (rogue), INT+WIZ (wizard) , CHA+WIS (cleric) archetypes. But yours would be easier to convert from the standard D&D into yours more gracefully. That is good.

While I have issues with the “traditional ability scores” having each new game use its own creates such a mess on my head. For that, having the chance to fallback into just 3 by the ‘first column rule’ is neat.

Some questions though:

How does the “negative stat” translate with the BASE / LOOT column overall column. A LOOT +0 would be and HARD. Or just +0 in BASE regardless of LOOT level?

And if there would there no derivatives, how would you calculate Hearts / HP, and DEFENSE?

Also, which one would you use for something like roll for initiative?

Anyway. Very good and thank you for the discussion @Midnight I like it.

EDIT: formatting and typos


WOW Midnight, I’ve been playing at the same idea for a Space theme game! I’m a fan of Firefly/Serenity, makes me kind of cultist. So I thought I’d toss you my design ideas. Been looking at ICRPG, Uncharted Worlds, Scum and Villainy, Starfinder and Five Torches Deep with the same idea. For the three “Attribues”, they use Insight, Prowess and Resolve. I like simple words to describe them; Smart, Body and Appeal.

Each of the three Attributes have four “Action” choices. I’ve been considering a fifth choice which is the last one in each. Nothing in stone here, just playing with ideas. I would give a person X amount of points for one Attribute towards Actions, a lesser amount for a second Attribute and none for the third. Everyone gets to pick a Background which;
1. Gives one Action point to spend in it’s Attribute.
2. Give two Action points in one Attribute. One for a specific Action and a free one to spend in this Attribute.
This allows a person to pick a background to strengthen any one of the three Attributes they want.

After the Action I have worked on three descriptions for each of the advances (Scum & Villainy define these). These are an optional and meant to help players who need help in Role playing (hard to believe). In Dungeon World games these would fit. Other systems these could be “suggestions” to help players needing guidance. These could be more of a hindrance and tossed out. (SORRY, difficulties in presenting the next part)


     Medical: 	Treat, Heal, Doctor
     Hack: 	    Computers, Hack, Hack at Range 
     Rig: 		Mechanic, Improve, Create
     Scholar: 	Investigate, Research, Discover
     Intuition: Notice, Sense Motive, Sense ___ (Player choice with GM, ex. Danger)


     Helm: 		Pilot, Systems, Weapons
     Scramble: 	Run, Climb/Leap, Move and ___ (choice)
     Scrap: 	Fight (+1 damage), Intimidate, Special Attack (to design by Player)
     Skulk: 	Stealth, Snatch, Sneak Attack	
     Shoot: 	Shoot (+1 damage),  
	[I don’t like having Shoot & Fight together which is done in Scrap. This is why I added a fifth choice to the Attributes.]


     Attune (Psy or Wise):  Mental, Advantage, Mental and ___
     Command (compel):      Leadership, Advantage, Lead and ___
     Consort (social): 	    Influence, Advantage, Guide and ___
     Sway (guile): 		    Bluff, Advantage, Trick and ___
     Resist: 		        Self, Defend another, Mental intrusion
	[Resist can be physical, mental and influence, the three save throws. For the moment it  makes Appeal’s fifth choice but not a good choice.]

A Player puts points in Body but doesn’t pick Scrap (fight). They can still fight but they have no bonus to the Roll. If they put no points into Body, they can still Scrap but they Roll on Hard or Roll at Disadvantage.

A note on Initiative. I like ICRPG system of just go around the table. As the game progresses I let the story decide if the Players or GM go first. Most often I provide information and let them decide how to plan/respond. If I have an ambush set, players might suspect it or have a skill to “notice”. So I might ask them to Roll on a “Skill or Tag” (Action in this set up) to not be surprised.

My system also uses Effort.
As a Space game I have only humans. A person could be a Mystic. This would be the enlightened hermit, the wise religious person or a psychic with powers (think River).

Big thanks for ICRPG, it has been a freeing system for making delightful games that don’t get slowed down with fights. I’ve tweaked it for my game style. The above idea is a result of a few players who need a stronger character frame.