More on Attributes

An alternate six attribute system I considered, but did not document in my previous post about the 3x3 stat-grid, would treat Intelligence as Mental Agility, Wisdom as Mental Endurance, and Charisma as Mental Strength. This would eliminate the need for the Spiritual category, and maintain the dynamic I observed among the physical attributes. With some minor nomenclature changes:

StrengthBrawn   Presence
Endurance  Constitution   Willpower

This retains the more familiar six-stat block, with the names of the poorly understood attributes of Wisdom and Charisma renamed Willpower and Presence respectively, clarifying the mechanical and descriptive differences between the old attributes and the new. Intelligence is not the most precise name for what it now encapsulates, but sharing the abbreviation Int with Intuition works to it's advantage, and so it was kept as is.

And so:
  • Brawn (PS): raw muscular development and capability.
  • Dexterity (PA): physical reaction speed and coordination.
  • Constitution (PE): overall bodily health, and resilience.
  • Presence (MS): strength of personality and charisma.
  • Intelligence (MA): instincts, perception, and problem solving.
  • Willpower (ME): personal resolve, focus, and concentration.

Relative to the 3x3 Stat-Grid:

  • Intelligence is a contraction of Intuition, Acuity, and those aspects of Knowledge governing learning potential. All cognitive and intuitive work is combined, eliminating the need to speculate what attribute handles various mental gymnastics and guesswork.
  • Presence becomes the singular contributor to mental strength. Knowledge or Intelligence was a poor fit in this type: existing knowledge is covered by class and/or skills, and the learning potential is sufficiently captured by mental acuity.
  • Willpower absorbs what was Focus. This again, removes the need to make distinctions about how one maintains focus or resists influence. This attribute can also be used to generate Mana Points for casting systems and/or psychic or magical damage, using the same formula used to generate Health Points from Constitution.

My initial reluctance to use this layout was motivated by a desire to stake out unique territory and differentiate the new attributes and their roles from the established muddle of the D&D rulesets. The 3x3 stat-grid seemed to do those things. Getting into the finer details of spell casting as either skill or class based mechanics, I realized that the division of mental and spiritual was too nuanced to build solid mechanics around, causing the mental attributes to be relegated to more mundane skills and actions that most players in adventure gaming do not engage in frequently, and when they do, it's often during downtime and between game-sessions. Ths was a grievance I had with the mental attributes of classic D&D style gaming, so clearly the 3x3 stat-grid was not serving the intent of making all the attributes pertinent in play.


  1. Instead of making more attributes, I would suggest making less attributes. The ones I have always thought would work well are Physique, Grace, Intellect and Spirit.
    Physique would handle the meatier aspects of the character-- dealing and receiving physical damage or stress.
    Grace would handle hand-eye coordination and ability to move one's body quickly and accurately.
    Intellect would handle not only knowledge, but the ability to think quickly, clearly and accurately. Initiative, most skills and maybe other things would be governed by it.
    Spirit would handle magical power-- both the ability to perform and endure it, as well as harmony with nature and the gods, the ability to impress other people with one's presence and influence them. It would also govern something like "hero points" or "luck".

    With four fairly broad categories like that, it would probably be perfectly possible to make all 4 quite useful to every character class.

  2. I have some experience with systems with only 3 or 4 stats, and have found the lack of granularity only works well if matrixed into a skill or advantage system that creates variance outside of those baseline stats, but even then, such a slim system is subject to certain min-max'ing.

    Certainly, depending on one's expectations and demands, even a no-attribute system would work well enough, and conversely, a 10- or even 20- attribute system would work. It's ultimately about building mechanics that utilize those attributes effectively and consistently, and making sure that no stats are excluded from relevance or overburdened with importance.

    By example, a single stat that determines both hit strength and survivability may well be too potent in a game that revolves mostly around melee combat, but in a more social game where intellect and spirit have greater value and combat seldom occurs, a single stat for both give and take combat mechanics may be more desirable.

    Looking at a uniform 3-fold system for both mental and physical resolutions seems to me, to be a uniform solution that provides for nuance in a variety of gaming situations without placing too heavy or light an emphasis on any one attribute.