Skills as Attributes

Sat 24
Posted by at 5:08 pm. Filed under: Design Notes

So I’ve successfully reworked the attributes.

In standard D&D, the ability scores sought to define the various mental/physical/spiritual aptitude a character had. There’s always been an interesting relationship between a character’s ability scores and their chosen class – even from the get-go many classes required (or strongly recommended) “matching” ability scores. Then later D&D built skill lists to draw off the ability scores and further personalize the character.

One of the things I like about the Red Box Hack system is that that relationship between attributes (ability scores) and character class is much more mechanically severed, and I appreciate that. It operates under the assumption that if you’re playing a fighter, we can just go ahead and assume you’re athletic and hearty, and if you’re playing a magus or magic-user we can assume you know a lot of esoteric stuff, and so on.

So the approach I’ve taken with the six attributes is that they are less about describing what your character is and much more about describing what your character can do. Your class is meant to determine what your character is. How good your character is at doing different stuff is still going to affect what kind of your character class you are, of course. And no skill lists should ever be needed.

So I started with the premise of brainstorming all the different situations and skills that a dungeon-crawling adventurer might need to deal with, regardless of their class. I realized then that I was looking at three different “arenas” of potential conflict, and that ended up being the key to rethinking my six different attributes. There’s the physical world, and being able to move about and affect things in it; there’s the social world, and being able to understand and influence it; and then there’s the spiritual world, which tests your endurance and devotion. Three of my attributes fall squarely on the poles and the other three neatly lie along each axis between two.

Here’s the DM’s chart for adjudicating “what gets tested for what”, see for yourself.

2 Comments on “Skills as Attributes”

  1. 1 Liam said at 6:24 am on July 26th, 2010:

    I can’t help thinking that there is something missing – logical thinking, for want of a better name. I guess it depends whether there are any conflicts in that arena in the OSH.

  2. 2 kirin said at 10:31 am on July 26th, 2010:

    I guess the “old school” response is that logical thinking is the purview of the player, not the character.

    I’ve never really liked how “roll to see if you figure this out” comes across in game. But if you came down to it, I guess Cunning would be the best attribute to use.

What do you think?