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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Greywander's Avatar

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    Nov 2017

    Default 3 Attributes vs. 4 Attributes

    So a common thing to do in TTRPGs is to have three basic attributes, usually labeled as Physical, Mental, and Social, or some variation thereof. Sometimes an RPG builds off of this, like Vampire: the Masquerade's nine attribute system, consisting of three groups of three attributes, where the groups are, you guessed it, Physical, Mental, and Social.

    While this is perfectly serviceable, I've kind of wanted to expand this to a four attribute system. This actually stems from the way Dexterity/Agility is often handled in RPGs. It just doesn't make sense to me that someone who is good at backflips must also be good at lockpicking, and vice versa. I guess I could kind of understand if the idea was, "Well, if you want to be good at this one thing, you'll probably also want to be good at this other thing, and neither is strong enough to be it's own thing so we'll just lump them together." So what I kind of wanted to do was to split your physical abilities into "macro" abilities (e.g. running, jumping, swimming, climbing) and "micro" abilities (e.g. tool use, crafting, etc.).

    Which brings us my idea for a four attribute system. Names, of course, aren't really so important as what the attribute actually represents, so perhaps I'll represent each with a variety of names in addition to a short description.

    A strong arm and a fleet foot.
    Your "macro" physical ability, like running, jumping, swimming, climbing, dodging, brawling, etc.
    Corresponds to a Knight class archetype (i.e. if you want to play a character like this, don't neglect this stat)

    A sharp eye and a steady hand.
    A combination of "micro" physical abilities (tool use, crafting, crossbows, etc.), "cautious" abilities (stealth and sleight of hand), and some mental abilities that require focus and/or attention to detail
    Corresponds to a Thief class archetype

    A wise heart and a learned mind.
    Any mental ability that isn't covered by Precision
    Corresponds to a Sage class archetype

    A bold heart and a silver tongue.
    Your social stat
    Corresponds to a Bard class archetype

    Now, what you'll notice is that this looks a lot like the three attribute system, but with Precision shoved in there unceremoniously. What's kind of causing me some grief is how Precision kind of muscles in and borrows from both physical and mental stats. I have a pretty good idea of what kind of physical tasks should fall under Precision rather than Strength (the only borderline skill would be Archery), but what I'm less certain of is what sorts of mental tasks should fall under Precision rather than Intelligence.

    Perception/Awareness could be a mental skill, but it could also fall under Precision (attention to detail). So could something like mathematics and related skills. Or Engineering. Or basically any analytical skill. Part of the appeal of the three attribute system is that it's pretty easy to figure out which of the three attributes a task falls under (although some oddities do arise, like whether stealth should be Physical or Mental). The problem with the four attribute system is that I've defined Intelligence as "any mental skill that isn't Precision", but haven't defined very well what mental skills are Precision. Even in D&D, the difference between Intelligence and Wisdom is pretty well defined: the first is abstract and theoretical, the second is concrete and practical.

    Perhaps I just need to come up with an actual skill list, and try to divide them evenly between each attribute. Left over mental skills would go to whichever of Precision or Intelligence has fewer skills. Or I can just stick to using the archetype descriptions, i.e. "Is this skill more thief-y or sage-y?"

    Any thoughts or advice on this system?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2017

    Default Re: 3 Attributes vs. 4 Attributes

    I think it makes sense and would make for an interesting game. Two physical stats, two mental stats. Sometimes I start brainstorming about a game system that makes a distinction between Upper Body strength and Lower Body strength, but it always ends up messy.

    This is how I would divide the four stats:

    Brawn (muscles and big movements) controls muscle-powered weapon damage, movement speed, running/jumping/climbing, toughness/hit points

    Finesse (accuracy and small movements) controls all weapon accuracy, initiative/turn order, stealth, rogue stuff

    Logic (intelligence and analysis) controls number of skills learned, ability to understand new scenarios and identify falsehoods and fallacies, learned magic?

    Emotion (charisma and insight) controls social skills, willpower, force of personality, internal magic?
    Last edited by Tiadoppler; 2019-08-06 at 10:36 PM.
    The battle cry of a true master is "RAW!!!"

    I play Devil's Advocate. Why does a devil need an advocate? Because only bad lawyers go to hell. The good ones find a loophole.

    5e Homebrew: Firearms through the ages / Academian class / Misc. Spells

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Greywander's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Default Re: 3 Attributes vs. 4 Attributes

    That corresponds pretty closely to what I've laid out, although I kind of think of Precision as a half-physical, half-mental stat. I'd probably lump all melee combat, thrown weapons, and archery under Strength/Brawn/whatever, since it tends to involve more of those "big" body movements, i.e. a weight-lifter is more likely to be better at them than a bomb disposal technician. Being physically fit is particularly important for those. On the other hand, things like crossbows, guns, and siege weapons would fall more under Precision/Finesse, since they require little physical fitness and rely more on being able to accurately aim the device and keep it steady while shooting. Yeah, I've argued that D&D should use DEX for all weapon attack rolls, and STR for damage rolls. I suppose it depends how we're defining our terms. D&D defines DEX to include both macro and micro physical feats, as long as they're more finesse-based rather than brute force.

    At some point, thought, we have to ask ourselves whether we're approaching it from a verisimilitude standpoint ("Archery should be a strength skill because you need to be strong to use a bow") or a mechanical standpoint ("All ranged attacks use finesse by default, because that's how we've defined what finesse is"). I suppose the way I've laid out the attributes, Strength/Brawn is for combat specialists, Precision/Finesse has a few combat options (crossbows or guns) but is specialized around thief-type skill-monkeying, Intelligence/Logic is more of a scholar-type skill monkey, and Charisma/Emotion is obviously the social/political intrigue character. In other words, the guy who kills stuff, the guy who does stuff, the guy who knows stuff, and the guy who says stuff. A lot of RPGs tend to focus heavily on combat, but I'd like to make those other types of characters equally as interesting to play. A session without combat should be able to be just as fun and interesting as a session with combat, but most systems rely on the DM to fill in the gaps in the rules to make that happen.

    I also like how you divided learned magic and innate magic between the mental and social stats. I've thought of doing the same thing. Linking learned magic (also psionics) to Intelligence is obvious, and your social stat can be thought of as your confidence and willpower. It's not only your ability to project your personality, but also to project your magic, which is more primal and emotional, rather than logical. It "just works", and you don't really think about why. It's not perfect, of course, but the only way to do better would be to have a separate magic stat.

    I think your system would work pretty well, but for whatever reason I find myself unwilling to let go of my version. I'm sure you know how it is; you come up with a good, but flawed idea, and you just can't quite bring yourself to let it go even though you have trouble finding a fix for it. Although I think I can probably get this working, and it would likely look almost identical to what you've laid out.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    Nov 2013

    Default Re: 3 Attributes vs. 4 Attributes

    An RTS I played a lot of is Warlords Battlecry.
    It has four stats, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma.
    Years later when making pen and paper systems I came up with a four stat system and realized later I had just recreated what battlecry had.
    I use Might, Finesse, Intellect, and Persona.
    I've used it for several different game designs.
    Works great, I find it to be a very elegant way to divvy things up.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Troll in the Playground

    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Default Re: 3 Attributes vs. 4 Attributes

    I'll describe the system in In Nomine, as it's a sorta-3, sorta-6 stat system and you might draw some inspiration.

    Characters have a rank of 1-6 in Corporeal, Ethereal, and Celestial. Each point gives 4 points to go into sub-stats, which rank 1-12.
    Corporeal covers Strength and Agility.
    Ethereal covers Intelligence and Precision.
    Celestial covers Will and Perception.

    Strength is what you generally think of: using brute-force weapons, feats of strength, punching stuff. Also covers your HP.
    Agility is dexterous movement, speed, dodging attacks.

    Intelligence covers 'knowledge' skills as well as doing scientific stuff like chemistry. Sometimes you get an "Int save" to escape spells that influence your thinking.
    Precision covers ranged combat and finesse-based things like medical procedures or picking locks. (It also covers small weapons like knives, but I think that's not a great design point.)

    Will covers "will saves", force of personality, and ability to deceive.
    Perception covers seeing through lies or illusions, and, well, perceiving stuff.
    Will and Perception are also important for certain magical powers characters have: will for demons, perception for angels.


    Another system I've used is one a friend of mine homebrewed. It's basically nWoD in most regards, but limited to 4 stats: Strength, Agility, Constitution, and Will. There's explicitly no social or intelligence stat, based on that it's hard to RP them (leading to "well, my character would know, so tell me" if it's high, or just ignoring it if it's low). He had a hidden Luck stat that could influence someone's mood to see how well they respond to persuasion attempts, but basically persuasion was up to how persuasive you were and if it made sense to suspect you were lying.

    Strength was physical attacks. Also limited what types of armor and how heavy a gun you could use.
    Agility was ranged attacks. Also movement and dodging.
    Constitution was HP. Basically just HP, but your HP was 3*Constitution, so it was important.
    Will was "will saves" and magical power.

    Damage was generally based on your stat (Strength for melee, Agility for ranged, or Will or magic) + the weapon's power - the target's dodge/armor. You did successes damage.

    It worked pretty well, and was nicely simplistic. The (to me, innovative) idea of just explicitly not having a social stat was neat. Some supernatural powers would make folk believe you or be controlled, akin to really good persuasion or charisma. I do admit a major flaw to this is that it requires a lot of trust between GM & player. We have that, but I can see it being tricky at a random table.

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