View Full Version : Scaling ability scores between species with wildly different physiognomies.

2012-02-25, 12:01 PM
So, I'm working on a science fiction game which will give players the ability to play as "starfish aliens" (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StarfishAliens) I want to suport a range of species with vastly different physiognomies as player characters. a typical player party might include a metre tall bipedal ant, a shape shifting fungus, an amphibious creature that rolls around in a ball, a tenticled orb that floats through the air, and a telepathic scorpion, not to mention these wierd blobby beige things called "Humans" which players inexplicably seem to want to play.

The question is: how would you aproach the problem of scaling strength between a range of vastly different species. you're towering reptilian alien is going to be far stronger than the 2 cm long scorpion alien, but if a player can imagine something , it should be possible to play it.

I've thought about having statistics that reprosent a characters abilities relative to an average member of their own species. but this breaks down in competative situations.

Any thoughts.

2012-02-25, 09:30 PM
Not everyone has to have a decent Strength score, particularly beings that can manipulate objects with their minds/advanced technology/summoned creatures/etc. In fact, you can even rule that Strength is an abstraction, like Intelligence or Charisma, and that the strongest force you can consistently exert on physical objects is your Strength score in whatever form it takes.

2012-02-25, 09:52 PM
Small vocab point: "physiognomy" is not a synonym for "physiology." Physiognomy is more like a face-focused version of the phrenology the high priest uses to diagnose Haley. (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0303.html)

I'm not sure, so I'll just post some thoughts:

I think that a uniform score system still makes the most sense, more than saying, say, that 10 is average for all races, but that an elephant's 10 is different from a mouse's 10.

Overall, you still want an unusually strong mouse to be much stronger than an unusually weak mouse. So I suppose you'd want to have a system where they both don't end up with "1" strength or something, so perhaps you'd want to have large ability scores all around, so that, an average human's strength score might be more like 100 or something rather than, say, 10, with room at the bottom of the scale for smaller scores that D&D or GURPS humans might have.

At this point, I'm not sure whether it would be best to have logarithmic ability scores or what. Let's say that a strong example of a tiny, scorpion-type alien has a strength of 15, and an average example has a strength of 10. Then, if an average human has a strength of 100, then what does a strong human have? 105 or 150? 105 would be the answer if you go with logarithmic ability scores, but it might be a bit counterintuitive since the difference looks pretty small, although it would make things like the contest resolution system easier. If you go with linear scaling of scores, with 150 relating to 100 as 15 relates to 10, then maybe you'd have to do rolls multiplied by ability scores or something, since, if you used something additive like the D20 system, you'd end up with RNG playing a big role in the battle between a strong scorpion and a weak scorpion, and almost no role in the battle between a strong human and a weak human.

2012-02-26, 08:28 AM
Something else to consider is making the scores relative to a creature of that size-category, then applying modifiers when crossing categories.

2012-02-26, 11:16 AM
Much of the trouble you are coming up against here is due to the assumption of relative capabilities for a single creature trying to match up. If you look at the standard sci-fi idea of non-human aliens there is always another factor to put in; sheer numbers. A nanite swarm is a potentially world-destroying force, but an individual nanite is no threat at all, it's the scale of numbers which makes the difference. A woodworm is a pathetic little creature when compared to something like a cat, but enough woodworms can bring down a massive building, whereas cats would more likely just tear up the furniture and poo all over the place (including in your shoes). The idea that any one single individual of a race could compare to any one other individual is severely limiting.