Why have stats in an rpg?

numbers-have-feels-

One of the less successful times I pitched Seed rpg to a publisher I got questioned about the game’s use of stats. At first I was confused, as if they asked why my hands had fingers. RPGs just have stats.

Now this particular question was more nuanced than that. The person wanted to know why the game has so many stats (10) and why so many of them were the same for his character. It’s a good question. If you have ten stats and half of them start as threes then why not make a game with five stats that are actually different. (*note character creation was not quite finished when he asked, those stats would be appropriately different by the time the first game had been finished)

I have an answer but it’s not something I was able to explain quickly at that time. This question haunts me now as I try alternative methods of resolution.

My first reason to use stats was the sense of character differentiation and progression they provide. If numbers are different from one character to another they say something. If numbers go up then players naturally feel something has gotten better. Stats feel like an easy way to accomplish this. Alternatives are things like giving characters lists of abilities, card decks, or key words.

Seed rpg has 10 stats, thats almost twice as many as DND and way more then you would find in something like a JRPG. The stats I chose were to allow for variation in how characters accomplished goals instead of attempting to model reality. Instead of having a “fight” stat and have the probability of winning a fight based on that single stat. I had dexterity, senses, strength and agility. With these a character could tackle physical conflict with a variety of means. The hope was to inspire players to narrate their unique character’s methods in achieving a goal. Two characters could be equality capable of wining a fight but in very different ways.

 

Princess Bride was a source of inspiration. I wanted stats that could make all the heroes and villains in that movie work as playable characters. That movie has a perfect cast of characters.

Seed RPG uses stats for resolution but it also uses them as a resource economy, Wealth and connections are used to gain items and favors. Spirt and health are sacrificed to learn new traits or raise other stats. There are also ways to convert these stats into each other. Spend Wealth/connections on an R&R scene to gain back Health and sprit.

This resource economy is a motivation to keep playing the game. Given it’s all just numbers written on a piece of paper it’s very cheap component’s wise. I don’t need to have massive libraries of cards for player’s to build a deck, I do not need huge books of abilities for player’s to compose a list from.

 

Why I bring this up now is I have ways I could replace the stats from seed RPG like I am replacing the dice. I am elbow deep in this engine and taking an inventory.

Post Scrip

I use this blog as a part of my working process. I ask myself a question and see if I can figure out the answer. At this point I don’t know if stats will be changed but I wanted to question them and see if they are worth keeping around. Thanks for reading and please comment if you have your own thoughts and questions.

 

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