Jump to content

Talking Characteristics


dracopticon

Recommended Posts

Here are one of the most central questions for me, as a RPG/BRP-system (clone-)builder: what characteristics are the best ones to have for describing characters to their fullest?

The original seven BRP characteristics STR, CON, DEX, INT, POW, SIZ and APP (+ the eighth of Education) I feel is a little limited for full range description of a character.

My own (written and rewritten) RPG version of BRP includes as many as 12 characteristics and are as follows:

AGILITY (=body motor activity)

BRAWN (=physical strength)

CHARISMA (=strength of personality)

DEXTERITY (=fine motor activity)

ENDURANCE (=physical toughness)

KNOWLEDGE (=capacity to learn)

LOOKS (=within own species)

MORALITY (=basic moral value)

REACTION (=speed of response)

STAMINA (=how big-boned and healthy)

UNDERSTANDING (=basic logical capacity)

WILLPOWER (=mental toughness)

I don't like it when a PC's litheness and general flexibility are described in one characteristic. I think there are one thing to be flexible and agile with your body, and another to be fast with just your hands (like when making card tricks or picking a lock), and finally you can have a tremendous reaction speed, but otherwise be sluggish with your body or hands. So therefore I think the best is to split DEX into AGI(LITY), DEX(TERITY) and REA(CTION).

Also, a character could be incredibly beautiful, but have as much personality as a pebble. Or the other way around, be magnetically charismatic and yet look like an old hag. So therefore, both LOOKS and CHARISMA is essential.

Likewise, CON needs to be split in my opinion. You can be very resistant against disease etc, but not be able to take the slightest pain.

And: why have a characteristic named MORALITY? The answer to that is the chance to have a fast value that can be tested in a morally tempting and testing situation. Also, some of these are hidden characteristics. The more obvious, like SIZE and BRAWN you can see more easily with the first glance of the PC when looking at their visage. But their MORAL fiber? No. So that's why some of these characteristics should be shown on the front of the character sheet, and some are hidden on the back.

The front ones, are:

AGILITY

BRAWN

CHARISMA

DEXTERITY

LOOKS

STAMINA

While these go on the back:

ENDURANCE

KNOWLEDGE

MORALITY

REACTION

UNDERSTANDING

WILLPOWER

(The same rule applies to other data that can be seen on the front: visible equipment and weapons, visible clothing and armor, carried pets, other visible paraphernalia, distinctive features, etc. The hidden stuff are the opposite, and also background info, magick knowledge and/or other stuff the player don't want to share with everyone right away and can be written on the back of the sheet).

And this is the plan with the characteristics (I like the word attributes more) right now. What do you think? I like all kinds of responses, except insolent ones. Speak you minds.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From my point of view, additional characteristics would only make sense if

they had any meaningful impact on the playing of the characters.

Therefore there should be some kind of connection between the new charac-

teristics and the characters' skills or other forms of "performance".

I find your idea interesting, although rather overcomplicated for my taste,

but without more informations about the consequences of the additional cha-

racteristics during the game I would find it difficult to have an opinion.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is what's known as the lumping/splitting problem, and in the end it can't b e anything but "season to taste"; there's almost no defining trait for a character that can't be split down finer or lumped up together with something else; the question ends up being whether the distinction is important enough to justify the overhead.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

**Idea deleted for insolence**;)

As far as characteristics and mechanics... I'm of the less is more school of thought. Despite being an old hand at CoC I'm glad to see Edu become optional. It wasn't even considered in the pulp version of the rules I wrote up years ago. Heck sometimes I even wonder about the usefulness of the Size attribute.

Some of your attributes could be represented by skills instead. Despite some of issues I have with MRQ... I like the skills Resilience and Persistence. A person who doesn't get sick much but can't take a punch? Low Con coupled with a high Persistence score. Sure it's not too cost effective but it is do-able.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

'Looks' and 'Appearance' are the same thing, except that one is in more layman's terms.

I always felt that there was no need for a Charisma score on the grounds that

1) we have APP already,

2) 'Personality' is represented by other traits like INT, EDU and POW (even the physical traits to a degree, as they describe how the character is to the rest of the world too). Intelligence, in particular, should describe ones ability to interact and communicate with others in a lucid manner. Power indicates force of personality, to a degree also.

3) We have skills for things like Persuade and Fast Talk.

A few other observations:

- Knowledge isn't the capacity for learning - it's what you know already. Currently it's represented by EDU.

- Stamina and Endurance are pretty much the same thing in terms of their effect on gameplay.

- A lot of your Characteristic range are merely the same as BRP, but with different names. Why are these names better?

- Morality is an interesting stat - although, it's something that's not easily definable, universal or easily measured as such.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From my point of view, additional characteristics would only make sense if

they had any meaningful impact on the playing of the characters.

Therefore there should be some kind of connection between the new charac-

teristics and the characters' skills or other forms of "performance".

I find your idea interesting, although rather overcomplicated for my taste,

but without more informations about the consequences of the additional cha-

racteristics during the game I would find it difficult to have an opinion.

Yes, in my view I think you're partially right, they only make sense when contributing something to the character concept. But. The general idea, and foremost: the reason why I'd like to have a lot of attributes (or characteristics) on the PC is because they're way too many skills and skill areas in the BRP system(s) yet produced. In Ringworld, who was otherwise a great BRP version, the skill numbered almost impossible amounts. Which is fine if you play a group of 25 players or so...

Ok, that's a bad joke. But seriously I do think that if you incorporate a lot of basic TALENT in the attributes (atleast if you have a medium to better level), you don't have to find a micromanaging skill for every situation. The best thing would be if the talent or atleast possibility fo a talent for the supposed situation is to be found in the attributes. Half of the work is already done by that.

And that is the main thought here: to simplify by "overbuilding" mechanics early on. Does that sound crazy?

Erik Brickman.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is what's known as the lumping/splitting problem, and in the end it can't b e anything but "season to taste"; there's almost no defining trait for a character that can't be split down finer or lumped up together with something else; the question ends up being whether the distinction is important enough to justify the overhead.

Aha! Interesting, I've never heard of the problem before being named like that.

And yes, the question is, is it possible to use with different tastes? Or is it to overbuilt? Read my reply to rust.

Erik Brickman.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, definitely not crazy - although I would prefer an approach with less an

broader skills instead of additional characteristics.

In my opinion it is the purpose of the rules to make playing characters easy

for the players by providing them with guidelines. However, when you add

more and more details to the rules system, you come closer and closer to

the point where the entire apparatus goes belly-up and starts to hinder and

restrict the players instead of helping them.

Therefore I usually prefer to take away instead of to add, and in this case I

would probably take away "sub-skills" instead of adding characteristics.

But in the end this is a matter of personal taste, and your version will be just

as playable as mine, only in a somewhat different way.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

**Idea deleted for insolence**;)

Hehe, I'd like to know what that was...? :)

"The less is more school of thought" is actually what I'm also a member of. But read my reply to rust, because I think there actually can be more simplified rules by "overbuilding" the first part, i.e. the characteristics from the beginning. That way you don't have to have one skill for every bit of little area that needs to be tested.

Edu is justified by how high tech-level the campaign is set in. My own setting of EBROS is a high fantasy world (with very little magic being available).

Size is somewhat of a hate/love characteristic for me. It's needed but a little bit too simple to be among the other characteristics.

Some of your attributes could be represented by skills instead.

Nope, that's exactly what I want to avoid. Again, by building more on the attributes/char, one should be less inclined to get stuck in the "skill-swamp".

Erik Brickman.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

'Looks' and 'Appearance' are the same thing, except that one is in more layman's terms.

That's exactly how I feel. Looks are the same as APP, that's why I want Charisma to balance the 'only-looks-side' of the PC. So how can you say:

I always felt that there was no need for a Charisma score on the grounds that

1) we have APP already

APP, as you yourself said, is the same as looks. In other words only the exterior of a PC. Why then only have that? Is there no more in a character than the surface?

2) 'Personality' is represented by other traits like INT, EDU and POW (even the physical traits to a degree, as they describe how the character is to the rest of the world too). Intelligence, in particular, should describe ones ability to interact and communicate with others in a lucid manner. Power indicates force of personality, to a degree also.

Personality is better shown by traits, like in Pendragon and with the MORALITY attribute in my view. And foremost: by how the player roleplays his or her character. But here, the traits and MOR values should be helpers.

Skills like Persuade and Fast Talk are only that: skills. And I want to avoid having too many skillls. That makes some areas impossible to know anything about. Ever. Which is bad, in my book.

A few other observations:

- Knowledge isn't the capacity for learning - it's what you know already. Currently it's represented by EDU.

- Stamina and Endurance are pretty much the same thing in terms of their effect on gameplay.

- A lot of your Characteristic range are merely the same as BRP, but with different names. Why are these names better?

- Morality is an interesting stat - although, it's something that's not easily definable, universal or easily measured as such.

Knowledge means things we learn, by experience. We all carry different amounts of knowledge as a result of age, living situations, priority and opportunity. In my opinion, no way is knowledge "what you know already", automatically. Education is learning, people get educated, they learn. Can't get much more simple than that.

You're probably right when you say "Stamina and Endurance are pretty much the same thing", but there's things built into the two that differ. Like I explained in my opening thread. That doesn't mean I'm right. They probably need to be worked on.

The name change is to have ONE letter for each attribute different from the other. If you look, you'll see that they all start with a different initial. That makes it possible to abbreviate them with one capital letter.

Yes, you're definately right when you say "although, it's something that's not easily definable, universal or easily measured as such." But I'm working on it, I'm not 100% sure I'm gonna use it. We'll see how it works, if I get to playtest it. Thanks for your views! I like this opportunity to talk about it!

Erik Brickman.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aha! Interesting, I've never heard of the problem before being named like that.

And yes, the question is, is it possible to use with different tastes? Or is it to overbuilt? Read my reply to rust.

Erik Brickman.

Well, honestly, your explanation suggests to me that you should be looking at the skill system, not the attributes; a more general set of defaulting from extent skills strikes me as more appropriate than, effectively, increasing the attributes and then doing a lot of attribute rolls. Most of the attribute rolls in BRP (other than the Luck roll) already strike me as filling in for things that should be skills anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe look at shortening the skill list by make a few skills more broad and encompassing, rather than creating sub-divided characteristics.

Such as Athletics which would cover all physical skills like dodge, swim, climb, jump, throw, etc.

Yes! Why not, that's a good idea and sounds a lot like the way I think with more powerful and encompassing attributes than more and more skills.

Erik Brickman.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, honestly, your explanation suggests to me that you should be looking at the skill system, not the attributes; a more general set of defaulting from extent skills strikes me as more appropriate than, effectively, increasing the attributes and then doing a lot of attribute rolls. Most of the attribute rolls in BRP (other than the anyway).

Yeah, you're probably right in some ways. If there's an effective enough skill-system things get much easier. But at the same time, why not stymie the "I can't do that because I haven't got the skill"-trends that more often than not happens? I can imagine that you can incorporate a lot of 'sub-skills' in the standard ones. But... why not make the attributes and skills into something more symbiotic than they already are? I'm striving towards it atleast, but it isn't easy.

Erik Brickman.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, you're probably right in some ways. If there's an effective enough skill-system things get much easier. But at the same time, why not stymie the "I can't do that because I haven't got the skill"-trends that more often than not happens? I can imagine that you can incorporate a lot of 'sub-skills' in the standard ones. But... why not make the attributes and skills into something more symbiotic than they already are? I'm striving towards it atleast, but it isn't easy.

Erik Brickman.

Well, partly because it then means those traits can't be easily improved; on the whole in BRP, skills are the improveable parts of a character, attributes the non or hard to improve parts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is what's known as the lumping/splitting problem, and in the end it can't b e anything but "season to taste"; there's almost no defining trait for a character that can't be split down finer or lumped up together with something else; the question ends up being whether the distinction is important enough to justify the overhead.

Agree 100%

There are lots of different ways to look at this, and no one way is "right". For a period of time, we played around with The Fantasy Trip. We referred to it as "role-playing lite" due to its pretty simplistic game system (and a lethality that made RQ look positively tame). The point being that it had only three statistics. Str, Dex, and Int. Um... And it worked just fine. Each stat just had a broader interpretation is all.

Same deal going the other way. You can make more stats and narrow their definition in the process. IMO though, you're hitting a point of diminishing returns though. While there are some negatives to "lumping", you always gain something from increased simplicity. But as you increase the number of stats, splitting them into smaller and smaller bits, you're going to hit a point at which the benefits of the increased granularity are wiped out by the increase in complexity.

I can't say for sure whether 12 stats is the point at which that becomes a problem or not. Heck. I played Champions for years and that's got a whole slew of stats, so who knows? But then that game was ultra focused on the interaction of different abilities of the characters, where most RPGs tend to abstract things a bit more. Ultimately, I think that the game system and how well it utilizes and balances the stats is what's going to matter.

Oh. But for the record, I don't like the "morality" stat at all. Actually, the Pendragon traits system always bugged me as well (I had a GM that wanted to introduce that into our game and squelched it fast). I simply do not agree with having any sort of written stat that mandates character personality. Ever. I'm a firm believer in allowing the players to just decide what their character's personality is and let them play it. Obviously, that's coupled with rational and reasonable consequences and rewards based on how their play interacts with the world around them, but I have simply never seen the value in having personality traits of any type appear as stats on a sheet. The very idea of a player looking down and saying: "Ok. I've got a kindness of 13, so I'm going to see if I can roll against that to ensure that my character succeeds at doing something kind today...".

Ick! I'm sorry. That's just an absolutely horrific idea. Statistics should define the broad physical/mental capabilities of the character. Skills should define the degree to which that character has honed his/her ability to do specific things within that context. Everything else should be roleplayed. A characters chance to do something should be based on stats/abilities/whatever, but the choice of what to do should *always* be the players.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First of all, a big thank you for the thoughtful and very extensive answer, Gnarsh. I really liked to read it! Now, to the quotes and answers:

Agree 100%

There are lots of different ways to look at this, and no one way is "right". For a period of time, we played around with The Fantasy Trip. We referred to it as "role-playing lite" due to its pretty simplistic game system (and a lethality that made RQ look positively tame). The point being that it had only three statistics. Str, Dex, and Int. Um... And it worked just fine. Each stat just had a broader interpretation is all.

And don't forget Twerps who's got only ONE stat! :) Interesting to hear that The Fantasy Trip had a greater lethality than RQ (which in turn IMO always was more lethal than AD&D). WFRP is probably the most lethal RPG I've ever played and gamemastered. That TFT had a broader interpretation of what the stats stood for is really exactly what I'm aiming at with this thread. But I'm not saying this is the ultimate solution, but again, if I cover a lot of ground from the beginning with more statistics/characteristics/attributes and downsize the amount of skills, I think it'll be more playable.

Same deal going the other way. You can make more stats and narrow their definition in the process. IMO though, you're hitting a point of diminishing returns though. While there are some negatives to "lumping", you always gain something from increased simplicity. But as you increase the number of stats, splitting them into smaller and smaller bits, you're going to hit a point at which the benefits of the increased granularity are wiped out by the increase in complexity.

Maybe I am. But it isn't automatically a stunting of skills just because I empower the attributes with more possibilities. They can definately complement eachother. I'd like to have skills and stats on the same area of the character sheet.

I can't say for sure whether 12 stats is the point at which that becomes a problem or not. Heck. I played Champions for years and that's got a whole slew of stats, so who knows? But then that game was ultra focused on the interaction of different abilities of the characters, where most RPGs tend to abstract things a bit more. Ultimately, I think that the game system and how well it utilizes and balances the stats is what's going to matter.

That also sounds like the idea I'm promoting here. I've never played superhero-RPGs myself, but I can see where such a game needs to be "ultra focused on the interaction of different abilities".

Oh. But for the record, I don't like the "morality" stat at all. Actually, the Pendragon traits system always bugged me as well (I had a GM that wanted to introduce that into our game and squelched it fast).

I'm really sad to hear that. I think the Pendragon system of traits is a work of absolute genious. Sure, it "restraints" the free will in certain situations (doesn't real life?). AND: the greatest win is that it simulates real moral and value testing when characters get caught in personal tight spots, moral wise. And why not? Why should PC's be spared from that kind of testing? It's probably the most interesting part of roleplaying, in my view.

"Ok. I've got a kindness of 13, so I'm going to see if I can roll against that to ensure that my character succeeds at doing something kind today...".

Sorry, but it seems you've totally misinterpreted the whole meaning of using traits. Just consider this (I don't know if it's a better player-climate where you live but): there's a lot of players that don't understand how you even start to roleplay a character. They 98% of the time just 'roleplay' themselves. That is sad in my view. Here's where the traits come in handy because they act as 'handles' to a better roleplaying of the character. And in my experience, the traits model has helped a lot of players really PLAY their PC's personalities instead of themselves. Which is almost always much more interesting.

But that's my views on this. It's very nice to hear other views like yours.

Erik Brickman.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's exactly how I feel. Looks are the same as APP, that's why I want Charisma to balance the 'only-looks-side' of the PC.

APP, as you yourself said, is the same as looks. In other words only the exterior of a PC. Why then only have that? Is there no more in a character than the surface?

Personality is better shown by traits, like in Pendragon and with the MORALITY attribute in my view. And foremost: by how the player roleplays his or her character. But here, the traits and MOR values should be helpers.

Skills like Persuade and Fast Talk are only that: skills. And I want to avoid having too many skillls. That makes some areas impossible to know anything about. Ever. Which is bad, in my book.

Appearance is a constant, whereas 'Charisma' isn't. In the real world, appearance makes a huge difference to one's ability to progress: socially, professionally, romatically and otherwise. A pretty person has a lot more power of influence than a plainer person, and appearance is a measureable feature that people can instantly assess about themselves and others. Our society doesn't like to admit these things but they are real enough, with a large body of psychological studies to back this up.

When people talk in terms of 'charisma' or 'likeability', however, things are much more hazy. I mean, I like the Sex Pistols, but I wouldn't say that they were 'charismatic' by definition, or that everybody else would like them. The 'eye of the beholder', and all that.

Moreover, the things I like about people are not so much top do with an indefinable 'force of personality', it's much more to do with how I relate to what they have got to say. In this light, what I am actually liking about an individual relates to their Intelligence and their skill with self expression. Other people might be more impressed with other aspects - like their appearance, or education, their strength and athleticism, or maybe something more indefinable ("POW"). The ability to appeal to others is not an innate thing - it relates to who you are talking to, and your ability to express yourself. It should also be mentioned that there are also various courses you can attend to improve your skills of self-assertion, self expression or leadership, in the real world too.

The point is, that we do have all these things in the BRP system already. The problem, I think is that some of the traits, like Intelligence and Power, are actually very broad in scope. Modern educational psychology actually supposes many different types of measureable 'Intelligence' (verbal, mathematical, musical, etc) - but BRP only has one. 'POW' is also deliberately vague in representing all the non-cognitive-based aspects of personality - things such as 'Will', 'Luck' and 'Magic'. One could see POW as the EGO, in Freudian terms too.

Now, Pendragon is an interesting case, as it chooses to remove all these aspects and replace them, effectively, with a 16PF measure. In the context of that genre, it makes perfect sense. You won't find too many Arthurian tales with aspects such as IQ, Education or the EGO being referenced or revered. However, in a Cthulhu game, these aspects are quite relevant to the genre and provide a limited personality profile of a sort. In may ways, it really does depend upon the genre you are playing - but of course it's tricky to build a universal game system on the principle of having lots of variable stats that you switch around, determined by genre. It can reach a point where the 'system' is no longer that.

Knowledge means things we learn, by experience. We all carry different amounts of knowledge as a result of age, living situations, priority and opportunity. In my opinion, no way is knowledge "what you know already", automatically. Education is learning, people get educated, they learn. Can't get much more simple than that.

I'm not quite sure what you are arguing here. 'Knowledge' is 'knowledge', and that is what is represented by the Education stat currently.

You're probably right when you say "Stamina and Endurance are pretty much the same thing", but there's things built into the two that differ. Like I explained in my opening thread. That doesn't mean I'm right. They probably need to be worked on.

Perhaps. I guess my point is why do we need more stats to represent different apsects of the same stat, when one seems to function OK as it is?

The name change is to have ONE letter for each attribute different from the other. If you look, you'll see that they all start with a different initial. That makes it possible to abbreviate them with one capital letter.

I see this as an advantage to a degree, although 3 letter acronyms aren't really that hard to grasp either.

You welcome to my views though! Glad to be able to express them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've never been a big fan of manditory morality/personality stats either (I don't have a problem with voluntary ones in a disadvantage system); the Pendragon approach always seemed excessively mechanistic to me, and that's coming from someone who's a firm believer in mechanized social skills when it can be done fairly, so you know I'm not hesitant there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, partly because it then means those traits can't be easily improved; on the whole in BRP, skills are the improveable parts of a character, attributes the non or hard to improve parts.

Jep. You're right with the rules as they are now. But that is what I'm trying to change. And I don't mean stats should be as changeable as skills, but as I said: find a way to incorporate them into eachother much more, and you have areas of knowledge bound into the character from the beginning.

It all boils down to this, I think: in my view, the PC's are always heroes. They should innately know more, be stronger, faster, quicker to learn and everything should be better. That's the basic reason why I want this work to succeed.

Erik Brickman.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A few idea of making larger than life characters.

1) Go with the metaskill idea. I'd suggest my old option of using the category mod as a sort of base skill. Get rid of the 10 base and do something like Manipulation =INT+DEX+(STR/2). THat would give your character an ability to use all skills if everything was covered under the base. For more heroic character you could either add a flat mod to the base, or double it. So an average PC could have a 50% base chance with all Manipulation skills. Certainly Heroic if you want it.

2) Allow PCs to pick their 10s die after the dice are rolled. So if someone rolled a 73 they could switch the dice and read it as a 37. This would make the character a lot more capable and would avoid doing a major rewrite. PCs would simply do better becuase they are PCs without needing higher scores.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting to hear that The Fantasy Trip had a greater lethality than RQ

Yup. Very much so. Partly because the game had no real "defensive" abilities. The balance was solely offensively balanced. Characters with heavier armor had a lower chance to hit. Armor was rarely able to avoid all damage, so that meant that if it took longer to defeat the opponent, you likely took more damage in return. The concept was very well balanced (the game originally started out as a set of smaller games that were specifically about player versus player arena type fights), but was quite lethal when expanded into a larger setting (like even dealing with a smallish "dungeon").

Same thing with spells. Your HPs were equal to your str, but were also expended to cast spells (with int determining the highest "level" of spell, and dex determining your chance to cast/hit with the spell). It was all about killing the other guy before he killed you, which made for adventuring through multiple encounters pretty brutal. We added additional items and expanded some spells in order to make it a bit less nasty, but I'd estimate that the kill rate was still around 50% or so... :eek:

Fun game though!

That TFT had a broader interpretation of what the stats stood for is really exactly what I'm aiming at with this thread. But I'm not saying this is the ultimate solution, but again, if I cover a lot of ground from the beginning with more statistics/characteristics/attributes and downsize the amount of skills, I think it'll be more playable.

Maybe. The problem with that has been touched upon though. Typically, stats are broad things that define the raw physical/mental capabilities of a character and change very slowly or not at all, while skills define specific chances to do something and should change freely over time. Obviously, you can do this in other ways as well, but unless the game system is carefully designed with this in mind, you'll often end up with the "one size fits all" problem, where a given combination of stats is always best because stats determine so much of the game.

It's doable, but very very difficult. TFT used stats for a lot, but then it only had 3 stats. Even with just those three, there were some pretty clear "dos" and "don'ts" to character creation. I imagine that as you add more stats to a heavily stat influenced game, the problem of balancing them would only grow...

I'm really sad to hear that. I think the Pendragon system of traits is a work of absolute genious. Sure, it "restraints" the free will in certain situations (doesn't real life?). AND: the greatest win is that it simulates real moral and value testing when characters get caught in personal tight spots, moral wise. And why not? Why should PC's be spared from that kind of testing? It's probably the most interesting part of roleplaying, in my view.

Because the problem is that it's not the players being tested, but their die rolls. That's fine when determining if someone succeeds at swinging that sword, or picking that lock, or puzzling out a treasure map, since those aren't things I as a player will be exactly as capable at as my character. I may not be able to pick a lock, but my character can, so it makes sense to have some kind of skill for the character to see if he can succeed at the task.

But "traits" are about roleplaying IMO. That's why we play the game, right? It's what distinguishes a RPG from a game of monopoly. As a player, I'm playing another roll. I choose what personality that character has and I choose how that character reacts to the world and situations the GM puts him/her into. If I'm presented with a choice between saving my fellow party member who's hanging by his fingers from a ledge and could fall any second or perhaps pocketing that large glowing ruby first before anyone else spots it, I shouldn't roll against my "greed" trait. I should be able to simply make the choice. And I should be able to make that choice based on the personality of the character I'm playing if I want.

Because that's roleplaying. If you make those choices by rolling dice, then why play a roleplaying game?

Sorry, but it seems you've totally misinterpreted the whole meaning of using traits. Just consider this (I don't know if it's a better player-climate where you live but): there's a lot of players that don't understand how you even start to roleplay a character. They 98% of the time just 'roleplay' themselves. That is sad in my view. Here's where the traits come in handy because they act as 'handles' to a better roleplaying of the character. And in my experience, the traits model has helped a lot of players really PLAY their PC's personalities instead of themselves. Which is almost always much more interesting.

Well. Except that they didn't. In Pendragon the assumed conflict was based on classic Arthurian legend. Which is basically a struggle by man with his own negative aspects. His knights didn't succeed by defeating enemies, but by fighting and denying the negative aspects within themselves, while striving to embody the best that man could be. And they ultimately lost, not because they lost any specific battle, but because they failed to defeat their own demons. The traits system in Pendragon kinda worked in that context, but *only* that context.

The system was specifically designed to expose the PCs to situations in which they could succeed by calling upon their "good" traits, or fail by falling to their "bad" traits. It was not a guide to roleplaying at all, but a skill system in itself. The opponents were not the physical enemies you fought, but the temptations to do the "wrong things".

Um... I still didn't like the game much though. Way too linear. Far too abstracted. The scenarios were scripted. Overly so. Maybe my biggest problem with Pendragon was that basically everyone was playing the exact same character. The only difference was that your stats determined your ability to succeed at playing that role within the context of a given scene. You couldn't choose to play the loner thief who decides to join up with a band of adventurers for fun and profit only to find himself overtime caring about his friends more then the loot (think Han Solo, or a hundred other similar characters). Nor could you play the reluctant sidekick who wants to help his mentor, but keeps causing more trouble in the process. Or the simple farmer who gets caught up in events and ends up a hero (think Frodo, or another hundred similar characters).

Nope. In Pendragon every single character was striving to be the same "perfect" model. The stats measured the degree to which you'd achieved that. It worked, but only in that incredibly narrow context (and wasn't my cup of tea even then). For any sort of broader RPG, I'd avoid any sort of personality trait characteristics like the plague.

Oh. and I get your comment about some players not knowing how to roleplay. And certainly it's true that new players will tend to simply roleplay themselves (with whatever skills and stats and items are on the sheet in front of them). But I've found that those new players, after they've played a few characters will almost always at some point approach me and say "Hey. I've been thinking I'd like to play a character that's like this....". And at that point, they start roleplaying things other then themselves. It may take a bit, but pretty much every player eventually does "get it". If you allow them, that is. I think if you made a characters personality into stats, this might make the process take longer because they're not actually playing the role, they're rolling their play (if you get that). And it'll also be more likely to annoy players then please them. The traits on their sheet will never perfectly match their own vision of their character's personality, so they'll usually end up being something that prevents them from roleplaying how they want rather then something that helps them.

I have the same problem with alignment from D&D. Yeah. It served a purpose back in the day, but not a very good one IMO.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gnarsh has some good points here,

The thing with personality traits in Pendragon were that there was an ideal to aspire to, and real game reasons to do so. Actually there were several ideals, depending on your culture and religion.

In most RPGs it is very easy to roleplay a valiant or pious person. Likewise it is very easy to roleplay resisting torture. The player isn't having toothpicks shoved under his fingernails. The risks are all intangible. So players tend to roleplay what works.

In Pendragon adventures could be based around characters having to past tests, not just of prowess, but of character. And that is what the traits did very well. Many stories simply won't work without something to handle traits.

The other thing is that the traits didn't play the character, but the player's actions defined the traits. Unless a character was being deliberately forced to test something by the GM, such as aking a valor roll to face a dragon, the choice was up to the player. Even when the player failed to do something, he could master his passion later. So someone who didn't have the courage to charge the dragon can screw up the courage in a little bit.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...