Fair warning, this is a long one. Skip down to the picture below if you don’t want all the annoying words to follow. 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;
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.
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.
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
- 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;
- It merges the skills into the core attributes allowing you to have both and neither.
- It uses natural language terms. “I attempt to CONVINCE the Orc by convincing him that his father sent us to rescue him.”
- 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.
- It doesn’t use derivative stats, as each attribute stands on its own, and doesn’t refer to another attribute.
- Its more granular than the core stats, allowing more variety in character builds.
- 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.
- 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?