View Full Version : Is my list of attributes too complex?

2013-02-23, 12:13 PM
I'm making a lot of progress on my fantasy rpg right now, but I'm thinking I might be making the attribute list too large and complex, which I tend to do (at one point I thought about having more than 20).

I don't like the idea of dump stats, so a lot of different attributes tie directly into combat in some way, which worries me since it means a melee warrior would have to invest highly in four or five different attributes to maximize his effectiveness.

There is a total of ten of them, and their interactions with eachother are quite complex. Note that my system also has skills, and will also have 'traits' (the game's terms for feats basically, though unlike DnD feats, a lot of mine come with consequences).

Here is my list, there is a total of 10 of them:

Strength: adds to weapon damage and determines carrying capacity along with what kinds of weapons and armor you can use.
Vitality: add to stamina (hit points, which is mostly determine by race and class) and determines resistance to disease and poisons
Size: determines how hard it is to hit you with ranged weapons, also adds to damage but subtracts from attack bonus.
Agility: determines speed and adds to melee combat skills, including the attack bonus and the ability to dodge and/or parry attacks.
Dexterity: adds to a lot of skills, including ranged attack skills (there's only two of them really).
Perception: adds to ranged combat skills and determines the character's alertness as well as social skills
Intellect: adds to a lot of skills, and allows investment in additional skills (skills work like DnD 4, where you are either trained or untrained, skill rank is mostly determined by lvl though you can invest a skill point to give a flat bonus to a skill you already have, but this can only be done once per skill).
Willpower: The most important use is it determines how likely a character is to be become stunned or demoralized. Also helps to resist certain mind-altering spells
Magic: determines what kinds of spells a mage may use as well as how effective they are, also is required to use strong magical equipement. a character with a magic below 10 cannot use magic and only the weakest enchanted items will work for them.
Luck: determines things that are down mostly to luck, though it can affect every other action in the game if its high (or low) enough

I was originally planning on the system being roll-and-add, but right now its mostly roll-under. For example, to hit a character with an arrow, you have to roll under their size+your missile-weapon-skill+perception modifier with 3d6 or d20 (haven't decided yet, leaning towards d20 to reduce the math).

Attributes are all rated similar to DnD (with 10 being average). For a human, most of these attributes would vary from 5 to 15, with the exceptions of size and luck which may only go from 8 to 12, for starting characters anyway. The ranges vary between different races. The system is point-buy.

Attributes also produce two sets of modifiers, a 'high' modifier and a 'low' modifier. The high modifier is simply the attribute minus 10, the low modifier is half the high modifier rounded down. So a score of 15 would give a high modifier of +5, and a low modifer of +2. These are abbreviated as HM and LM.

The skill list isnt complete yet, so I'm not sure on its size. The only one that I've really thought about are the weapon skills, which are as follows:

one-handed swinging
two-handed swinging
one-handed thrusting (stabbing simply)
two-handed thrusting (spears)
staves (also includes weapons like double-swords)
missile (bows, crossbows, and maybe guns)
thrown (throwing daggers and shurikens)
over-hand throwing (throwing spears, I am really thinking about removing this one)

Magical ability will also be determined pretty much entirely by skills and the magic attribute. For example, the pyromancy skill allows you cast 'conjure flames' (my game's version of burning hands basically), with the magic attribute and the pyromancy skill both determining if you successfully cast it and how much damage it does. Some spells impose a penalty on these rolls because they are difficult to do (in reality, bc they're powerful).

Characters also have two defense stats (maybe three). One is dodge, which determines the ability avoid being hit (in melee combat), but the damage is reduced if they fail to also roll over your armor (which is always higher than you dodge, since technically its your dodge+armor). Characters may also have a 'counter attack defense', which simply means that if the opponent rolls really low not only do they fail to hit you but you'll automatically get to attack them back.

Am I going overboard with this? I'm starting to think this may be a bit too much. Right now, a lot of the rolls involve adding three or even FIVE different scores together, in addition to the dice. I'm leaning towards having all the roll-under checks use a d20, just so you dont have to add 3d6 together in addition to all the other modifiers.

2013-02-23, 12:35 PM
Brutal honesty time?

Yes. That all sounds much too complex. Not necessarily the list of attributes - that isn't too far beyond reason - but the list of skills and the mechanics for combining them is difficult.

I link to these guys in every other response I make, but this video. (http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/depth-vs.-complexity) It's short, it's entertaining, and it does a wonderful job of describing how these things should work. I'd say that every aspiring game designer should watch pretty much everything those guys have done.

With my system, I have a couple questions with every mechanic in my game - whether it's something I added, or something I'm just used to seeing.

1: Would removing this break my game?
2: Does adding this add a *lot* to the experience of my game?

Remember, if your system ends up being exactly as complicated as 3.5... you've failed. It sucks, but it's true: with D&D, people are willing to put a fair amount of work into learning the rules, because there's already a community that knows them, and because the brand is well-established. If you're creating an independent system, everyone interested in your game is going to have to not only learn the system by themselves, but then convince their friends to learn it as well.

Think of it in terms of the cost-benefit analysis on the part of a potential player. Assuming you're not trying to go commercial with this, the "Cost" is the time and effort involved in learning your system. The "Benefit" is... unknown. They probably already have a system that they like, and that system has the advantage of already being understood. Now, you can scrape together some benefit with the promise of good mechanics, deep strategy, good marketing, whatever, but all of that is difficult to convey to a new player. Remember, you're competing with every established system out there (D&D, GURPS, Shadowrun, Pathfinder, Deadlands, World of Darkness), plus hundreds of other independent systems that other people have come up with; if your system is even the tiniest bit intimidating, people will walk right by it.

...that honesty may have been more brutal than was called for. Sorry. >_>

This, by the way, is why I think that Wizards and Fighters, as they currently exist, are *great* for D&D. Yeah, they're laughably unbalanced. But, the Fighter an option by which they can play a very simple character, learn as few rules as possible, and still get to participate in the game. If they like the experience, then they can graduate to playing wizard, and experience the real depth and versatility the game has to offer. In the end, "Balance" and "Realism" only matter in so far as they support "Fun."

2013-02-24, 07:18 AM
I was more questioning the practicality of it, not wheather or not someone would want to learn this game. I dont care if anyone learns it or not, I'm making it for my own amusement. I don't even need a GM bc I have the mythic game master emulator. After years of searching I have failed to find a game that appeals to me 100%, so I'm making my own. I may never even release it online.

And what are you saying is complex anyway? I don't understand that part.

2013-02-24, 10:37 AM
I was more questioning the practicality of it, not wheather or not someone would want to learn this game. I dont care if anyone learns it or not, I'm making it for my own amusement. I don't even need a GM bc I have the mythic game master emulator. After years of searching I have failed to find a game that appeals to me 100%, so I'm making my own. I may never even release it online.

And what are you saying is complex anyway? I don't understand that part.

Complexity comes in either way - even once someone has learned the system, the more they have to do and keep track of, the slower and more laborious the game will be.

If you're only making the game based on what you want, not what other people can play... Then there isn't a lot anyone can do to help.

As for the complexity itself... You're actually dividing "throwing" into multiple categories, attack skills based on how you move the blade. That adds a mass of complexity to the game, may actually hurt realism (no one who trains with a weapon will only practice moving it one way), and I don't see how it adds any depth to the system.

2013-02-24, 10:47 AM
The one-handed thrusting skill is mostly intended for rapiers, which ARE used quite differently from normal swords. Though you are right, and I have been thinking about revamping the list, right now I'm thinking about going with something like the weapon skills in the elder scrolls games.

Now that you mention it, most of the math isnt done in the middle of action, all it would mean really is character creation would be like gurps, with a lot of calculations. That would make character sheets a bit complex, but no more than what you typically see in games like gurps or DnD. The only thing that would require math on-the-fly is ranged attacks, which does worry me a bit. The odd way ranged attacks are handled by came from tunnels and trolls (though T&T just has you looking at a chart with D&D-like size classes). You could probably make a chart easy enough for my system anyway, in the same way that you can find charts for THAC0 in 2nd edition D&D.

2013-02-24, 11:02 AM
Short answer: yes, your list seems very complex. Does that mean it's not usable? Absolutely not, just that things maybe need to be broken down a bit more into smaller categories and better explanations given for why we need both dex and agi.

And as was said earlier, if you're making a system for your own personal convenience and not to share with anyone besides maybe your immediate gaming group, then the best thing for you to do would be to play with it and see if it feels clunky and needs to be streamlined.

An important thing to keep in mind when making a system is how long it takes to implement at the table. If you have to stop and reference rules because it's far too complex to remember, you're slowing your game down. If you have to go back and retcon how encounters happened regularly because you suddenly remembered X, which modifies how Y situation happens, you've got a problem. Simplier rules may not reflect "realistically," but then, if we wanted realism, we wouldn't be pretending to be able to shoot fire out of our fingertips, right?

2013-02-24, 05:02 PM
The reason I have so many attributes is to maximize diversity. I like settings with A LOT of playable races, and of course obviously the more attributes you have, the more ways that they can be different from eachother. Otherwise, a lot of my races would just be clones of eachother except for their culture and appearance. And yes, there is a lot of races that have better agility than dexterity, or vice-versa. One thing that might make it make more sense is to shift the attack bonus to dexterity, that would also help to keep agility from being an uber-attribute (like agility/dexterity skills tend to be), since right now it affects both the primary defense stat AND makes the character more effective offensively too.

And yeah, I'm still working out exactly what skills they affect. Note that I said that both dexterity AND perception add to the attack bonus for ranged weapons, which obviously isnt good. The two of those overlap so much, but again I have a lot of playable races that have superb senses, but crappy manual dexterity (or vice-versa), so differentiating them IS a necessity. Maybe i'll make some archer traits use dexterity as a prerequiset, and use perception alone to modify ranged attack. Maybe I should rename perception to wit, which makes sense when you consider that it also doubles as a chrisma attribute. Though if I do, then having it modify ranged attack would make no sense, thus I would have to shift that to dexterity, which also modifies melee attack! Argh....

2013-02-24, 05:32 PM
Did you watch the video I linked? The description it gives of Depth vs. Complexity may be helpful to you.

2013-02-24, 07:02 PM
Yes I watched it, didnt get most of it to be honest. As best as I can figure, he's trying to say that too much complexity is a bad thing.

2013-02-24, 07:11 PM
Yes I watched it, didnt get most of it to be honest. As best as I can figure, he's trying to say that too much complexity is a bad thing.

Look at it this way. You're not just designing a game; you're designing an experience. Do you want the player to have flashbacks to sixth grade math, or do you want to facilitate a fantasy of heroism?

Complexity is a good thing. Complexity leads to depth. However, needless complexity is just that. It's pointless. It distracts the player from the game. You've got some good ideas here, but you need to decide what your rules are really about. Do you want to write a physics textbook, or do you want to write a game.

2013-02-24, 07:30 PM
Yes I watched it, didnt get most of it to be honest. As best as I can figure, he's trying to say that too much complexity is a bad thing.

So... yes and no. The simplified version of what he's saying is this:

"Depth" refers to the range of significant, different options available to the player. Options that are functionally identical, or options which are obviously stupid, don't count. Depth is good: depth is what tactics and strategies are built of, and what allows for a wide variety of experiences from a single game.

"Complexity" refers to the sheer bulk of the rules system (or more specifically, the bulk of the rules system that the character has to deal with, in order to play.) Complexity is bad; complexity makes a game frustrating and difficult to get into.

Now, without at least some complexity, you can't have depth. So, the idea is to try to get the most bang for your buck - the most depth, out of the least complexity. So, every additional element that you add to the complexity of your game, should also add a great deal of depth. The best games are the ones that have a fairly limited, simple rule set, but a massive range of options that follow from those rules.

2013-02-24, 08:36 PM
Yes. If you have to ask "is this too complicated", the answer is always yes.

It is difficult to review a game for which the intended audience is "you", because I don't know you and it can be hard to guess your tastes and preferences. But I'll give it a shot.

Your stat system covers most everything that makes people different from one another.
It's clear you intend to offer a lot of choice during character creation, which is great.
It looks as though you're planning to use the same core mechanic to resolve skilled actions both in combat and out of combat. That's an excellent approach that even many major published games haven't embraced.

Although you have many stats, the subjects covered by each stat are fuzzy and sometimes don't make logical sense. For example, there's no relationship between spatial awareness, talent for shooting a target, and social adeptness, but these are all lumped together under Perception. That actually impedes character creation options; what if I want to make a gunfighter who's deadly accurate but socially awkward and taciturn, I can't do it.
The stat mechanic is needlessly complex. It looks as though your ultimate goal is to create a modifier for each stat with a 10-point range and another with a 5-point range... why not simply have each stat range from 0 to 10, with skills calling for you to use either the full stat or half the stat? That would be the same thing from a math point of view, but simpler to implement.
It sounds as though you are trying to create variety among races with numerical bonuses, which is the hard way to do it. Races are easier to distinguish with different capabilities. I think this is maybe driving some unnecessary complexity. For example, take size; using this as a significant modifier for ranged attacks doesn't make much sense. A typical English longbow has a useful range well in excess of 200 yards (180 m). At that range, the difference in target area for someone 5 feet tall vs. some 6 feet tall is trivial.

Here's why you're running into trouble: in building your game, you've got the structure half-built yet you haven't finished the foundation. That doesn't work any better for games than it does for houses. Decide what your core mechanics are going to be, then define stats, skills, etc, to fit within those mechanics. This will naturally prune out stray mechanics like your oddball stats with different ranges, convoluted ranged attack system, and variable mechanics that are sometimes roll-and-add, sometimes roll-under.

Define your core mechanics first, then go back and scrap everything that doesn't fit the core, or hammer it into compliance so it does fit. Tighten up what's defined by each stat, and do away with any stats that serve only to create trivial variation. You'll do well.

2013-02-25, 04:01 AM
Well, like I said earlier, the whole system was intended to simply be roll-and-add. But that started to fall apart when I finnally managed to get a hold of a AD&D2 book, and took a look at tunnels and trolls (not sure which edition, its a free pdf I got on their site a year or two ago, its only a few pages long but it does detail combat and character creation, though it lacks a list of monsters). Both those systems use roll-under for certain things, and roll-over for others. My ranged combat system infact is pulled directly from my T&T pdf here, which I view as far more sensible than having the target try to dodge the arrow, which is rather stupid really, and it also allows ranged weapons to have an advantage over melee weapons, in that you do NOT have to defeat their 'dodge' in order to hit them, its all of a matter of your skill, the distance, and of course how big the target is. Though now that I think about it, armor should also contribute to how hard it is to hit a person (at least, when they're wearing plate armor)........crap......

And I do admit, the size stat may be unnecessary and nonsensical, D&D-like size-classes may be better. I added it in bc I dont like the lack of granuality with the D&D system, for example, elves and half-orcs are both classified as medium creatures, even though the two are dramatically different in size, infact in most of the pictures and games I've seen, a half-orc may be as much as twice the size and weight of an average elf! I think its rather silly that elves are considered to be just as big as half-orcs, when they clearly are not. And I like the fact that a bigger guy will automatically function a bit differently from a small guy, even if neither of them are technically outside the range that would be normal for a human as far as size is concerned.

And as for my perception attribute, its meant to represent the ability to notice subtleties, or things that arent that obvious. Obviously, that does include noticing social cues. Though yes, you are right that in my system, a charater can't be both alert and socially inept. That's the problem with social skills, realistically they tie in to the other attributes in wierd ways. If you're intelligent or perceptive it does NOT automatically mean that you have good people skills, but obviously an idiot who wouldnt notive a meteor falling out of the sky is clearly not going to be very good at interacting with people. I hate social skills so much...

You see this is why I haven't managed to finish this project despite working on it for years, I keep changing my mind, finding new systems that influence me, or simply can't fix some wierd glitch in how the whole thing works (like a gunslinger automatically having high charisma).

2013-02-25, 04:20 AM
Remember, if your system ends up being exactly as complicated as 3.5... you've failed. It sucks, but it's true: with D&D, people are willing to put a fair amount of work into learning the rules, because there's already a community that knows them, and because the brand is well-established. If you're creating an independent system, everyone interested in your game is going to have to not only learn the system by themselves, but then convince their friends to learn it as well.

I'm not sure this is comparable to D&D at all. This reminds me quite a bit of GURPS... not saying it's a bad thing, I love GURPS, but yeah, it's complex.

That said, my advice, before going through all this hassle, have you taken a look at GURPS? I think it honestly covers most if not all of what you are looking for.

Also for the problem with sizes that you've got, maybe use size classes like D&D or GURPS does, but use MORE of them, with smaller bonuses/negatives. That said GURPS has ways built in to deal a bit with differences within a size category.

2013-02-25, 11:12 AM
I do have a free pdf of gurps (for the fourth edition), though I had no idea it had anything about size classes in it until you mentioned it. Doesn't really look much different from my idea to be honest, outside the fact that isnt as granular as mine. I never really bothered to think about what the numbers for my size attribute actually meant, looking at the length/heights of the values of the size stat in GURPs has made me think that my system is unnecessary. Perhaps I'll just change it into a stat like racial hit points, rather than one of the main attributes.

And just so we know, size in my game also determines how likely you are to be knocked backwards by a powerful blow. That's simple will, you get knocked back a square and/or knocked prone if you're hit with an attack that deals an amount of damage higher than your size attribute. No math involved there, besides adding the damage dice together as you normally would.

2013-03-02, 02:11 PM
If you want size to play a role, but aren't sure how to implement it, have you considered a system of "features"? This goes by different names in different systems, Advantages and Disadvantages, Edges and Flaws, etc, but the idea is that characters are described by a bucket of stats and a bucket of special features that modify how their stats interact with the rules.

So, for example, you can have features like "Large" and "Small" or "Powerful Build" and "Slight Build", or whatnot. Orcs could come out of the box with a feature that grants them special shinies for being big and brawny, while elves get a different set of shinies for being fine and dextrous. This differentiates the races in a way that can be more elegant that creating a numerical stat and trying to fit everyone into a continuum along that stat.

2013-03-15, 05:45 AM
As far as stat-wise- Magic and Luck are your biggest issues, does a wizard have to be intelligent to cast a spell? I'd hope so, but then there are sorcerers that use pure charisma. I find that it has potential but I think the luck trait should be changed to Influence (because you are lacking a stat to determine if people can negotiate well) and the Magic trait changed to Aptitude (Your ability to learn stuff) As far as the sheet goes you have alot of things that can "add" together to make static secondary stats. For example Melee Hit: Size+Dex. Wizard Magic: Aptitude+Intelligence Divine Magic: Willpower+Aptitude. Warrior Skill: Str+Aptitude. If you can see what I mean, then you open even more options for diverse characters. I think the high/low modifiers are cool and you can do high/low thresholds for effective attacks, being influenced by spells and so forth. I think simplifying the scores to match the high modifiers gets rid of unnecessary math. It may be a bit complex, but it is how you represent the sheet that makes it interesting. And keep the skills as they are, make them weapon based as in a sword can be swung or stabbed, but it splits between them while a rapier is only good at stabbing and gets a bonus to it. And make each action have a slight bonus over the other in terms of parrying. One handed weapons are better against thrusting vs. Thrusting is better against a two handed parry