Abilities

We still need to work out our actual abilities and their modifiers. In the last post in this series, Skill and Ability modifiers, I worked out a system of modifiers and how it affects task resolutions. I concluded that I have a +0 ..+8 range for positive modifiers, which includes both skill and ability modifiers. My gut feeling is that this should be split roughly into +2 for abilities and +6 for skills. By the definitions of the Skill and Ability modifiers post, +2 from abilities gives a talented person an advantage of 1-2 years of training, which does not sound unreasonable if you view a person’s entire career. Of course, in an abstract simulation such as an RPG this means high ability scores “front-load” skill use – that is, you gain a large boost to many skills before you ever receive any job training – but that’s okay; especially since I firmly believe that skills that realistically require training should also require so in a game; we can compensate with an “untrained skill use” penalty.

Anyway. Abilities. Since this is a genre-less game system, we will only define a few basic abilities. Specific genres could add abilities, such as a fantasy genre adding a magic skill. Also, I am a fan of having physical and mental abilities that roughly mirror each other.

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Agility
  • Intelligence
  • Willpower
  • Charisma

Let’s use 2d6 as our random generator for attributes. This gives us a range of 2-12, average 7, with a bias towards the middle of the spectrum. We have a few options on how to proceed, all based on what ranges we define for what modifier. I like symmetry, so I came up with the following:

Score Bonus %
0-1 -3 N/A
2-3 -2 8,34
4-5 -1 19,64
6-8 +0 44,45
9-10 +1 19,64
11-12 +2 8,34
13-14 +3 N/A

Using random ability generation and this modifier system almost half of the characters will have a +0 in any given ability. Close to 20% will have either +1 or -1, and 8% will have a +2 or -2. Almost 28% in total will have a low ability modifier, another 28% a high ability modifier.

I think this should work fairly well, especially if you consider that player characters will likely improve ability scores that are vital to their “roles” – be that strength for a sword fighter, agility for an Imperial marines sniper, or intelligence for a wizard. Player characters tend to be trained professionals, who would hone their abilities and skills as best they can. John Doe, his only hobby being slouching in front of his TV every night, rarely ends up packed with muscles.

Point Buy: Not everybody likes to generate characters by random. Since the average roll would be 7 per ability, six ability scores mean 42 points on average. Let’s give our Point Buy characters those points to spread among their abilities. This actually results in slightly above-average characters, since 6 is still a +0 modifier, and such a character could buy two 9’s and four 6’s. Two other optimized sets would be:

  1. 1x 12, 5×6
  2. 2x 11, 2×6, 2×4

These all work out to an overall of +2 in ability modifiers. You can easily assign your character low scores in abilities you do not expect to use much, but this still doesn’t seem to be excessively powerful.

Larger Than Life: In a very “heroic” campaign, the Game Master may simply let players buy abilities for a higher point value (see Point Buy system), or let them roll 1d6+6 instead of 2d6. That eliminates negative ability modifiers altogether. Besides improving chances for high end abilities considerably, it also has the side effect of eliminating negative numbers from the character sheet, simplifying matters ever so slightly.

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