Thursday, December 9, 2010

Experiments in Attribute/Stat RE-Naming

Jeff Rients recently tossed out an intrguing idea like a grenade.  It was a simple thought experiment about re-wording the terms used for the basic six stats/attributes in OD&D-descended games.  Sure, this isn't exactly new, and you're probably saying to yourself that you've seen this all before whilst stifling a big yawn.  But the timing was just right for the Rients-bomb to shed a little light on something that we've been wrestling with for a while now.  Essentially it's mostly a matter of combing through a couple of good books like the handy thesaurus, dictionary and so forth and compile a mass of terms that seem to fit the various slots within the six-fold stat system and then picking ones that best work for the setting(s) in question.  This also ties directly into our work with the chakra system and how to merge stats and chakras into something workable, playable and relatively simple.  It also plays nicely off of our reworking of the classes in certain contexts like the Cleric as Dogmatist adaptation we suggested in the recent Charles Fort post. Renaming Classes is easy, and we've experimented with that quite a bit, but re-naming the Stats/Attributes was one of those things we've tended to keep pretty-much as it was when Gygax dropped it into place.  It was one of those unchallenged assumptions that we're definitely dissecting merrily now, thanks to Mr. Rients and his simple thought experiment.

Previously, we've been considering using additional stats to handle functions/phenomena/abilities that we wanted to make intrinsic to the characters, but were not represented adequately with the existing stats. But before adding any stats or further complicating matters unnecessarily, it might be a good thing to re-examine the assumptions regarding Stats and the names they have.  Perhaps a simple name change might just clear away a lot of cobwebs and debris.  Just as long as we can steer clear of Fantasy Heartbreaker territory...

Names carry power, and by realigning the names of the stats with something more setting-appropriate you get both instant flavor and super-easy backwards compatibility.  As long as the terms chosen make sense, and can be said in public with a straight face.

Maybe we can find a way to finally resolve the whole Dexterity/Agility conundrum, or find a way to handle both Willpower versus Perceptiveness or Education versus Comprehesion or Critical Thinking.  More inclusive terms might be a better gambit than a increasingly divisive and restrictive approach that betokens an ever-increasing proliferation of sub-sub-sub-attributes and crap like that.

We'll be kicking this idea around for a while I imagine...

Thanks a lot Mr. R!

A few quick inks to other explorations into the Re-Naming of Stats


  1. This is often a tempting idea..the question I always come back to is what does it do for us? But then, maybe the answer to that is: what does it have to do for us?

  2. @Trey: What I'm seeing in this re-namification scheme is the glimmerings of something that just might work for our stuff. The post over at Aeons & Auguries really expanded on Rients' experiment and I rather like the explanation he gives there. By changing the name of the stats we can reshape the expectations, and we can mold things to better fit with a particular setting. Cultural Inertia, Cognitive Dissonance, Violence as a stat...there's alot of fun stuff to examine here and I'm looking forward to doing just that in the weeks ahead...

  3. UWoM uses these:

    * Conviction (CNV) [Con + Cha / 2] -- The strength of Self, Belief, and the ability to inspire/invoke Idea(l)s.
    * Psionic Index (PSI) [Cha + Wis / 2] -- The degree of Psychic Development the character displays; Hunches, Luck.
    * Scope (SCP) [Wis + Int / 2] -- Senses, Reasoning, Memory.
    * Agility (AGL) [Int + Dex / 2] -- Whole-body coordination in spaces with precise timing.
    * Fighting (FTN) [Dex + Str / 2] -- The totality of instinctive as well as institutionalised combative know-how; Aggression/Competitiveness.
    * Body (BDY) [Str + Con / 2] -- Strength in proportion to Endurance and Frame. Larger figures produce more leverage.

    Square Brackets are for conversion purposes to Ye Olde Game, and back.


  4. Hmmm...I can see that. I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

  5. @Timeshadows: That's an interesting selection. I am rather liking Fighting as an Attribute (It's that Surrealist influence), and Scope is a nice way to handle perception-stuff. I'm still not happy with lumping agility and manual dexterity in one stat, but that can be modified by a class ability or a skill, I suppose. I also like how you're using doubled-stats to derive these--we've been toying with something along those lines.

    Thanks for sharing--you've been working with the stats/rules end of things a lot more than we have, so your input is much appreciated.

  6. @Tey: We'll try not to disappoint. This may sort-out some of the conflicts between Riskail & Zalchis very nicely, or so we hope...

  7. @NW: Thanks for your kind words. :)

    Coordination is about the only word I have found that encapsulates both Whole Body and Hand-Eye movements, and it has the benefit of invoking the ability to do so in tandem with another or counter to a force.

    I have used COO before, but made the assumption, as you point out, that exceptional manual dexterity could be modeled in a different fashion for those points in the game where fine motor control is being tested. Dexterity, after all, ought not figure into preparation to the sudden threat of combat (initiative, surprise, etc.).

    The peoples of Urutsk are not particularly brutish, and most are fine craftsmen and tinkerers, so Agility was really what I wanted to measure (for Bow combat, for instance, where holding the bow and torquing the body to shoot a passing rider/turn around in the saddle to attack a rearward foe, etc.). My players rallied, and decreed that Crossbows and Coilstocks were Tech items, and therefore used Scope as the 'Aiming Stat', as it were. Some of this has to do with the velocity of the projectile, as well, with low-velocity projectiles requiring more Agility to co-ordinate the two bodies in real-time, whereas the high-v are moving quickly enough that the target will either be struck, or cleanly missed, and only precision is being tested.


  8. @Timeshadows: Coordination looks like a good way to go. I appreciate the further detail of how/why you went that route. In Riskail there is a lot of emphasis upon art both in terms of operative sorcery and in how one defines themself. Manual dexterity is a critical thing for sculptors, golemista, objectivists, streetcasters, charlatans, frauds, and many others. Accuracy over kinetic impact is also essential to most firearms--much as you've addresses with using Scope for aiming, which is a good solution. Thanks for the clarification--this is very helpful to the current process as we dive once more into the breach to wrestle numbers into some sort of useful pattern and hammer terms into place so that this all makse some sort of appreciable sense to more than just two people...

  9. Cool.
    --I'm looking forward to reading how you go about it, or what you've chosen, and why.

    Why not simply call it Art, or Craft, or um...Dexterity. :D j/k


  10. RE: Dexterity--there is a distinct difference in the ability to move gracefully and to paint a nice picture. Agility and Dexterity have always been split out from one another in our games. But by adopting Coordination and then allowing a character to determine the application of that attribute by developing their skill in agility or manual manipulation--that seems to be a good direction to go.

    As for Art, yes, we've seriously been considering using Art, Violence, Eros and a few other attributes...rooted firmly in Surrealist values and with a dose of a few other things like Chakras & the Tarot thrown in for good measure...

    But Dex/Agil ought to be separate from Art--not all Art requires movement, or even very good dexterity. And that leads to Prime Requisites, and a few other notions.

    Saving Throws already establish secondary/derivative stats, so it is in the very DNA of OD&D...not that that really matters too much. Art might be better represented by an approach similar to what you outlined above. Maybe a player has to decide which two stats to tap to empower their Art and other secondary abilities...

    Hmmm...that sounds interesting...a bit too much for the average casual player with the attention- spanof a squashed gnat perhaps, but it could be streamlined. I think we're on to something here.

  11. NW: I've added simple Player-supplied Tags to the six Abilities:

    Unyielding Conviction 19 +4/+4
    Focused Scope 12 +0/+1
    Savage Agility 14 +1/+2
    Artful Fighting 13 +1/+1
    Epicurean Body 08 -0/-1

    for example

    When two characters have the same Ability Score, I compare their Tags and chose the one that is more applicable.

    You may want to consider going a similar route, especially letting Players play their characters a few sessions/Levels, etc. before asking them to define them.


  12. @Timeshadows: Tagging the stats?!? That's simply brilliant. All the flexibility and customization without the reams of senseless rules and crap. Done appropriately, this would integrate the whole Art School-kind of aesthetic I was looking to incorporate, but in a very organic and much more fun and sneaky way. Without messing things up with clunky rules. Players can tag their stats the same way one tags a blog post, and the GM can work out which ones are deprecated or in high fashion currently...and even handle a form of social conflict without breaking out loads of new stats, new rules, etc. Wow. My brain hurts. In a good way.
    We should probably tape record our conversation during your impending trip up to the frozen wastes...

  13. NW: Thanks! I'm glad to give back to the community.

    I agree about the flex without burdening design aspect. Feats are cool in theory, but suck in practise. Tags cove the same ground and are unobtrusive.

    I look forward to the taped sessions. :)



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