What do attribute scores mean?



Asking the GM’s and players out there…what do attribute scores mean?

Assuming 0~10 that ICRPG gives them…0 is average and 10 is otherworldly/peek level? Within a focused power level, humans vs humanoids; turnips vs. Carrots; star destroyer vs space cruiser; mech vs giant monster. **This works very well. **

While mechanically (with average TN being 12) 0 gives about a 60% chance of failure and 10 gives a 10% chance of failure.

For those using a larger scope, how are you granting that scope? Humans vs Mechanized vehicles?

Manipulating effort? X1.5 for small vehicles x2 for car sized?

Or do you go to 10+ stats? Vehicles having a Str of 15? Or some other setup.

Yes, ICRPG addresses this in a very playable way…it just rubs my suspension of disbelief. Not quite annoying it, but it there, sitting in the background, specially in a sci-fi setting for me.

So, I’m interested in how others have manipulated it, or not bothered in preference to smooth play?

It’s not a big deal, just campaign prepping and beginning to stat some thing for reference. So I’m at a crossroads.


Easy. You address it in the narrative.

If its impossible to overpower a mechanical creature, you automatically fail. If there is no chance of failure, you automatically succeed. The rules are to help, not hinder. :slight_smile:


Excellent question, and something I think about often. I think there isn’t a sweeping ruling that can patch over all that, but more that it needs to be addressed on a case by case scenario.

Obviously it’s easiest to say the disparity between those kinds of powers makes the higher score just outclass the lower, but mechanically it’s not satisfying.

Do you have a specific scale issue that comes to mind? I love system design! :smiley:


Human VS. Battle armor vs attack vehicles vs small space fairing naval ship with both point defense and some light (for a naval ship) weapons.

Remember in the modern navy, a small ship gun is about the same as a large Tank gun. 120mm

I personally scale each by 10…but weapons are very modified. 1 heart equals 1 hp in the next scale…but most weapons are doing d4 and D6 at large scale…but they use more than one weapon per turn.

It’s the strength and dex that makes it very odd to me. An attack vehicle does not have the maneuverability of a human…but can cover ground sooo much faster.

Yes, already addressed in Chunk discussions…but interested in the thoughts/brainstorming of others.


I wouldn’t know about ICRPG. Especially since the modifiers are usually pretty small. Besides, attributes don’t have the same comparative value as D&D 1st Edition, nowadays.
On a related note, I think it’s funny that racial score changes are always so small: only a +2 to CON for Dwarves, for example? Would you say that Dwarves have a tendency to be only 10% tougher than Humans? :thinking: Not me, for sure.


Personally I don’t bother with this kind of thinking. Games are abstractions and if you start to poke those abstractions, it will be a matter of time before you get sucked into the rabbit hole of simulationism and you’ll end up with a complicated mess trying to “fix” the system.

The only sane way is to do what @Anthony_C said. Narration and circumstances ruling supreme over mechanical rules.


I know a lot of games, especially universal ones, struggle with this. I believe it is futile to try to cram everything from a human being to a battleship in the normal Attribute range.

One solution I liked is from Everywhen, The system uses an attribute range from 1-5 only, so simply looking at attributes is not enough. They introduce a new statistic called “scale”. The human baseline is basically scale 0 but its not that tied down. Larger Scale means bigger, tougher, smarter what have you. A creature could have Intelligence 1 and Strength 2 (2). This means for its own rolls it adds +1 when rolling INT and +2 when rolling STR. The (2) shows that the STR is at scale 2. Scale only factors in when you attack someone or are doing opposed rolls. Note that it uses a totally different damage system, I have adjusted the example to use the ICRPG dice.

World-travelers Nick and Ian are deep in the jungles of Dinosaur Island. The pair are surprised by the sudden rustling of foliage, as a 35 foot, two and a half ton Allosaurus (Scale 2) casually shoves aside a banyan tree on the trail ahead.

Our Heroes have a round before the fleet-footed carnosaur closes the distance. The GM judges the beast is within range for the weapons.

It’s Ian’s turn. With a firm hand he chambers a cartridge into his Elephant Gun (2) and welds stock to cheek. He has DEX +2, but due to the dinosaur being so much bigger it is stepped up twice (+2->+4->+6). The round hits for d8 scale (2) damage, meaning d8 when adjusted for the Allosaurus’s size of scale (2). If he would have fired the gun at another human, the damage would be increased 2 steps (d8->d10->d12). If fired at something even bigger, say a Scale 3 Tank, the damage would have been stepped down one step (d8->d6) due to the scale difference being in his disfavor.

Nick pulls his trusty .45 automatic. He manages to hit, but the slug, which normally does d6 damage, is stepped down by the dinosaurs scale of 2 to a measly 1 point of damage (d6->d4->1) If he had shot at something of Scale 3 his weapon would not be able to damage it at all as it steps d6->d4->1->0.

When the Dinosaur reaches them, it attacks, hits and bites down and grabs Nick in his Teeth. They do an opposed STR roll as Nick tries to free himself. Nick has STR +1 and the dinosaur STR +2 (2)! Since Nick is Scale 0 and the Allosaurus Scale 2, the Dinosaurs bonus is stepped up twice. +2->+4->+6!

When rolling against or opposed you always compare scale and the difference either steps up something or steps down something, depending in which direction it goes.

It sounds complicated but in game works rather well usually. The steps don’t work as easily in ICRPG as they do in Everywhen which has a very different damage system but I hope you get the gist.


Oh wow! It doesn’t sound complicated at all! In fact, it is pretty elegant! I love it! I might start using it! And it fits well with ICRPG with the scale of the dice from d4 to d12!
For D&D 5E its a bit harder to implement on the players’ side but it works well too!

@Khan I cannot disagree enough. Well, aside from the simulationist thing: we don’t need that that much at the table. But when I see simple, flexible systems like the one presented by @Chaosmeister, I feel like ignoring the great mechanics that exist would be a step back from the fun but also the degree of abstraction itself that we need to relate to the game.


I personally like making mini-games to work these things out, so it plays out like a game on a separate scope than the player’s scope.
We did that with pirate ship battles, and it worked out great! Players weren’t thinking about the conversion between player-level and ship-level, they were more focused on playing the mini game along side their tactical encounter. :slight_smile:


@Khan stole my thunder, LOL.

For me, trying to see RPG Traits in a Simulationist light is a bit like Wile E Coyote running off the side of a cliff. Sooner or later, he has to look down and then he starts to construct all kinds of silly reasons not to fall, but by then it’s too late.

So I just don’t go over that ledge, except when I feel like engaging in the mental self-pleasuring exercise of creating detailed, complicated rule sets that apply in all simulated situations, and then picking different ways to re-streamline the resulting fustercluck ruleset into elegance.

Sooner or later you just gotta acknowledge that any given ruleset lives and dies based on what the rules choose to leave out as much as it does what is important enough to leave in.

So to answer the kickoff OP question: What do traits mean to me?

A Trait is just a way of differentiating PCs from each other and other narrative constructs within the game. It answers the question of What can this part of the game do to the other parts? It allows the same kind of abstraction differentiating (within shared constraints) that Risk has over Chess and Chess has over Checkers and Checkers has over Tic Tac Toe.

If Player gets to pick Traits: it’s based on what kinds of game challenges the Player WANTS to be good at solving (and by being left out— which game challenges the PC is choosing to struggle with or try to avoid).

It trait mods are rolled random, then they indicate just stronger lean in this particular table of players at this moment toward playing the Game of “applying rules to situations to achieve goals” than the Game of “achieving goals by applying rules to situations”

ETA: This is why I lean harder into Modes than Traits a lot of the time. Or at least using 6 point builds that minimize the rules impact of Wiley Coyote stat-bucketing cliff experience of “I’m fast so I shoot good!” and “I’m stubbornly willful so I make friends better!”. And then allow me to emphasize more game-sense making modifiers with Background TAGs and found/bestowed Loot.


I’ll agree @Anthony_C is correct on many levels. But adding flavor to mechanics is fun. Or why bother with chunks?

Con in Icrpg works very differently than in most games, you recover that many HP on a successful recovery action. But yes, 10% seams slim…but 20% more recovery effect…pretty huge and about right.

Dex, Con, Wis seem to be the overpowering stats. In this system.
Splitting Str from effort puts it on par with INT. Though if you convert muscle powered missile weapons to Str…then things even out. (Muscle powered missile weapons; bow, slingshot, javelin, spear, rocks, knives: Vs something else providing the power ; firearms, crossbow, sling, missile, rocket…)
What does dex have to do with aim anyway?
Different topic for a different day.

I’m familiar with scaling dice…Dungeon Crawl Classics does it to the Nth degree and uses it everywhere. But the Everywhen concept might be worth stealing and or modifying. Annotating what scale things are when they are different. Thanks :+1:t6:

Please explain mini-game in this context…I think I know of what you speak, but equally capable of being wrong.

Oh Lon…I’m waaaaaaaaaay to lazy to go down perfect simulation route. I like fast resolution, light prep…but the bouncing ideas and exploring concepts is what this is about.
Please explain what you mean by modes?

Yes, loot, tags and effort modifications can cover everything we are discussing.

But by recalling the good and bad of a game you played 15 years ago is not productive. So I tap on that system, look at major differences, compare, contrast, cram it in…then get lazy and run straight human only Warpshell.

I just need to be able to pull out of my brain the why of the thing.


Lol @Paxx.
The lazy is strong with this me also.

So Modes is something taken from Fate, but really When you look at that description linked it’s just choosing different buckets at a different level of granularity from attributes. The Atomic Robo game really made it stand out for me.


Great Link on atomic robo…very decent concepts of arc types.


Sure thing! In the ship to ship battle, we had an old timey pirate thing going on, so our ships had a couple stats that could track their movement and a few interactables on the ship. A ship’s maneuverability dictated how well it could turn, so the party would decide where to move to use certain weapons on deck to attack the other ship. The weapons on deck had lite loading mechanics they used to do as much damage as they could until they got into passing distance where they entered a player scale range in which they shot at the enemy pirates, swung across to board, and other silly actions.
We’ve used something like Farckle for sled racing in the winter, fishing to reel in the biggest fish, and all manner of other things, earning titles players collected through the campaign.

As far as actually scaling stats, I’d have to take that case by case.


@Chaologic a really fun minigame I have incorporated from time to time is what boardgamers would call “bag building.”

In essence, when they accomplish certain objectives along the Red Plot Arc, put a Red color coded token in the bag. Do the same for Blue Plot Arc, and maybe add in a Green token every time some other condition outside their direct control occurs (Timers, Nat1s, etc.).

Then at a critical moment, roll a die and draw that many tokens from the bag, interpreting the results as who the murderer was, or which foes will be in final battle, what Loot is in the Dragon’s hoard, what tactical advantage the PCs might have, etc.

This kind of thing is great for keeping myself from planning too far ahead, too. I know there’s probabilities building up in three or more dimensions, but I won’t know what the final situation will look like till we get there and draw.


Sounds like great fun…yup, my kind of ship game combat. Keep players busy and have an impact on narrative but likely not decisively.


@Chaologic you and I are cut from the same cloth. I did exectly the same thing. I basically used the old Pirates constructible card game rules and ran that for ship to ship combat Then when it came to boarding it was back to regular ICRPG fighting bad guys on the deck.

Also ran fun self made mini games like the coastal schooner fishing race. The players took a boat out and rolled to catch fish. As soon as their hull was full they had to race back. All this while competing NPC ships were doing the same. First one back got the most money for their catch. It ended up being a very tight race and my players were absolutely frantic by the end.

If I did something like Warpshell I’d probably look at how the recent star wars miniature ship fighting games work and see if that could be integrated up to the point where players are going onto other ships.


You know what? I’m not satisfied with my previous answers, so I’m going to try and create a difficult and fringe situation and pose a possible solution.

Squad of starship soldiers are planetside trying to hold down a zone with a beacon that’s sending a distress signal. They’ve got some time before help is in position, but in the immediate present an enemy ship with high maneuverability starts making circles trying to destroy them before help arrives. Apparently this squad is super cool and has some stuff worth a small enemy craft coming in to wreck their jam.

  1. The difference in speed compared between the enemy craft and the squad on foot. Possible solution: variable TN according to space/“eye of the storm” (I’ll do a quick write up on that soon that I’ve been brainstorming). Now speed doesn’t matter as much as position to a “hot zone” and getting away from that zone relieves some pressure in the situation.

  2. How do the squad members do damage to the armored vessel build for dogfights with other space crafts? Possible solution: use tags to reference damage scaling. Say the enemy ship has the tag “Class 2:” weapons with the tag “Class 2” can do damage to it normally. Weapons with “Class 1” or lower simply can’t penetrate the armor. Where some scaling gets involved is when a squad mate shoots another ground troop with the Class 2 weapon. I might say for every Class of weapon, when scaled down, might cover a HEART of damage. So a Class 1 weapon hitting a soldier with normal battle armor would get hit with Weapon Effort + 1 HEART, and getting hit with a Class 2 weapon would be Weapon Effort + 2 HEARTS, etc. A Class 2 weapon hitting a ground troop with some kind of Class 1 power armor would hit with Weapon Effort + 1 HEART, while Class 2 power armor would just take Weapon Effort. Now we can use that same mechanic for destroying barriers and defenses, extraordinary enemies, other structures, and a lot more. It’s all just a brainstorm, but there might be something there for reference. I like having a least some ground floor mechanics for stuff like that.

  3. Difference of Ability Scores? What’s the Strength of the enemy ship, or the Dexterity? I don’t think you can really interact versus a vehicle in the same way as a person. Ships don’t need strength, they need a stat block that represents what it’s used for, and players use their stats when interacting with the ship. I don’t think there’s a need for rolling a grapple check on it (using the extreme example to highlight a point), but a character can certainly attempt to hang on if they’re on the outside of the ship!

  4. Change enemy space crafts to enemy mech. I still don’t see much changing: a character won’t fight it with strength, the pilot or AI will be calculating the aiming, and damage disparity can still be overcome by identifying classes of defensive and offensive capabilities.

So here I’m posing a bad situation: small squad holding a zone while a highly maneuverable enemy space craft circles and launches attacks as it makes passes. Let’s use this as an example to try and break the system, construct our own possibilities, and just see where we end up? Do we have a situation here that isn’t clearly represented, questions, or other ideas for possible solutions?
Do you have your own bad situations we can try to break down and simplify with quantifiable mechanics so we don’t rely on narrative to overtake the game aspect?


Ahh brother. Before ICRPG I used to drive myself insane trying to create a universal, relatively-realistic attribute system.
Ultimately, things work much smoother for me to simply separate the fiction (realistic) from the system/attributes (loosely representative/more “gamey”). Plus it gives me the freedom to create mechanics on the fly that match the feel (which feels more “realistic” in play)

For ships, I would simply give then their own attributes in chunks and some tags (eg: armour plating: ignore damage below 10).
Engine power/speed
Defence/Hull strength

So using @Chaologic example, if the Starship troopers fire at the space fighter with their assault rifles, it would be HARD or even only 20 unless there’s a narrative way they can hope to hit it. Plus they would have to do 10+ effort to cause damage.
To be honest if this is a one off involving a space fighter, I might make it even simpler. if they roll 20, I will roll for which system it damages (Weapons offline, manoeuvrability shot, engine blows).

Now if they have a rocket launcher or ground-to-air missile, this is different. 1 shot will likely destroy it, but they have to spend a turn or 2 aiming (we all know that moment in movies). Getting stuck into precise mechanics might lead to things not playing out in a way that feels “real” or right.

But if you can make a system that is simple enough then I’m down!

(By “real” I mean the fictional world feeling consistent, things effecting each other as one would intuitively feel they should)

Just to add to this: if my players end up using a space fighter or even DESTROYER, I would scale it all up. 1000HP, HAZUKI RAIL GUN deal 1D100 damage! Because it would really give the feeling of the scale and power 🦾


The way I interpret scores is how well you handle danger/challenge in any situation that requires such score. I don’t mind the scale for the number, but personal competence, scale comes to play on the fictional positioning side of things. A giant dragon might have 2 STR because it is used to lay down and have minions do the work for him, but if a buffed goblin with 6 STR tries to grapple him, it can’t because the dragon is just too massive to be able to mess with him, doesn’t matter the score. Now if the dragon is pulled by a massive giant out of the cave, he needs to make a roll with his poor STR!

Torchbearer has this “scaling” of creatures where, if something is FAR more powerful/bigger than you, you can’t even do anything against it directly.

Call of Cthulhu (using BRP rules) does simulationist scaling for every single thing on the game, meaning that even elder gods that might appear in the game have stats, with resulting ridiculous numbers! This bothers me a lot, since in one Insmouth game, a sailor I was RPing rolled a crit with an automatic 20mm gun against FREAKING DAGON and killed him outright… I killed DAGON with a gun!? Granted it was a ship gun but the DAGON stats where meant to be way too powerful against normal PCs and not to be tested agains military weaponry. And that’s a heavy problem because you have to keep scaling numbers for the sake of scaling in order to keep the different power levels. Or you could just do it fictionally like my dragon example and don’t have to do any kind of math!