What Character is?
Character is players alter ego in a table top role-playing game. In essence, player plays with a character who is a sum of her statistics shown in paper.
What should these numbers then be? Character has typically attributes (could also be named ”stats”) and skills:
Attributes typically represent some kind of inner ability or inherit ability in some area.
Skills represent ability in one particular area.
Thus character with good ability core should have easier time learning (and possibly using) some skill in related area. For instance it would seem logical that quick and highly dexterous character would be good in many athletic sports.
From game design standpoint two important questions are the number of attributes and their importance to main activity in the game.
A) Small number of abilities mean that each of them have higher effect than large number of abilities.
Ideally every ability should have roughly similar usefulness for related skills.
B) Main activity of the game determines which attributes are most relevant in the game.
For instance, if there is a game where large amount of time is spent in combat, the relevant attributes become very important. In many games high Strength and Dexterity are important in a physical combat so they are highly valued by players who play in a historical setting. However, if the time is spent in sipping wine and trading barbs disguised as pleasantries the Charisma and Personal Appearance become suddenly very important.
Attribute system can include several concepts that complicate system design even further:
A) Some special attributes may be added to characters with special backgrounds, skills, abilities or talents. For instance, there could be a Magical Power attribute open only to people who are trained to comprehend and use magic in settings where fantastic elements are used.
B) Some attributes may have additional special rules that persons with very high or very low attributes must employ. For example exceedingly fast person may have additional effect vis a vis person with much lower abilities. Similarly character with very low attribute may have additional penalties. For instance, in a historic game there could be rules that person must be of certain strength to be able to use heavy Zweihänder sword.
All of these issues must be given thought in thinking of the final set of attributes.
In my own thoughts I have been imaging a system where attributes are divided to two different sets. First set is used to describe character’s short term abilities such as giving out a good first impression or ability to react fast. These would be skills used during perilous adventures where action is fast and furious. Second set would be character’s long term abilities that describe characters ability to do long term activities such as daily work between adventures and long term effort during adventure such as a cross-country travel or ability to keep one’s mental balance in a high-stress work.
Within these two fields there would be actual attributes:
Physical statistics are:
Strength/Endurance – This would describe physical strength and related field of carrying it on.
Dexterity/Agility – This would describe agility and quickness of character.
Psychological characteristics are:
Willpower/Stability – Will is the strength of will to carry out in stressful situation.
Perception/Knowledge – This is the ability to reason and know/find out things fast.
Social characteristics are:
Charisma/Empathy – This is the ability to deal with people.
Will there be new abilities and will these pairing change? Probably but we’ll see that in future as game starts to get into a shape.