Friday, January 16, 2015

Pick Your Abilities

Here's a crazy idea: what if players were free to pick and define the ability scores that would go to defining their characters? Not the score but the abilities themselves.

Let each player create at least two up to  maybe as a dozen ability scores. Have each one get a one line description and up to 3 game things that ability score can modify, with no more then 2 ability score allowed to overlap one game thing. This isn't a communal thing each player picks their own list of abilities. Have the players generate scores afterward.

You could end up with:
 Elfus the Fighter/Magic-user
Might 12 
Magic 14, +1 to hit with magic weapons, foes save vs spells at -1, +1 save vs magic

Aribel the Wanderer
Stature  9
Fitness 12
Courage 16, +2 to hit in melee, +2 save vs fear
Perception 14, +1 find secret doors/searhc for traps, +1 intiative
Stealth 11
Bushcraft 5, -2 tracking, -2 foraging 
Blather 13, +1 reaction roll, +1 minion morale, +1 distract

Fozworth The Fabulous
Presence  13, +1 to reaction rolls
Comeliness 14, +1 to reaction rolls
Voice 8, -1 to magic attacks
Grace 14, +1 to balance, climb, and dodge
Will Power 6, -1 to save vs spells, psionics, and temptation
Seduction 14, +1 to tempt others and distraction
Drinking 9
Legerdemain 12

Sure occasionally contests between characters and tasks may be difficult to arbitrate now and again but: DMing and Palyer roleplaying can meet somewhere in the middle. 
*Elfus and Fozoworth are having a foot race  it's a contest of Might vs Grace.
*Elfus and Aribel are having a debate in public in front of witnesses about locla politics, after the players do a bit of stumping for the crowd it could be resolved as contest beten the Might of Elfus (if the player thought to have his stumping intimidate the crowd with physical preference) vs the blather of Aribel who can string on endless streams of locution.
* A stout dungeon door needs to be opened. Elfus might see this as a test of Might, Aribel as a challeneg towards Stature and Fozworth may have to resort to picking the lock with Legerdemain.

I wouldn't mix this with a detailed skill system as skills players want can be worked in as an ability score or a modifier.

So what do you think?


  1. I've done something like that. I've also played games where different characters were made with entirely different systems. It actually isn't too big of a deal, and running characters with different stats/resolution systems emphasizes that the characters are different, which is why we did it. It's a bit more cognitive energy for the DM to deal with.

  2. I played a game where you gained stats as you suceeded at exhibiting them, and another where each class had different stats.
    Imagine picking the stats that define your abilities then rolling low!

  3. It's a bit like Risus or Fate in a way - except by rolling the abilities you could be awful at them. Suppose it gives the character something to focus on. Maybe after a few levels you reach a milestone/tier and gain another aspect of yourself to roll upon ?

  4. That is a pretty cool idea. I would be inclined to ditch classes and let the attributes handle that too. Retaining levels seems like a good idea so a non-class specific progression chart like the one in Mutant Future would be good for determining XP needed to level up. Every level the character advances would earn them 1 point that can be spent on a +1 to an existing attribute or to gain a new attribute with an ability score of 3. "Unskilled" types of checks could be tricky but the GM could just pick the closest attribute that could work (even if it is a stretch) and just apply a penalty or adjust the difficulty of the roll required.

  5. I think it is brilliant. A great way to give max freedom, supports a very old-school negotiated situation DM-player resolution, and has a nice barbarians of lemuria vibe with far better mechanics. Think it would work well with a level-class system as could use class/level s the "attribute" for everything else.