Friday, December 5, 2008

Phys Soc Men

I've said it before, but an experience tonight really drove it home.

Here's my open request to GMs and game designers: If your RPG is going to have different attributes, such as Physical/Social/Mental, you need to have all of those categories carry roughly equal weight, or else make the lame stats cost less. If, as so many systems seem to do, only Physical ever gets rolled, then you really don't need the Social or Mental traits at all. They should be significantly cheaper, or just not exist.

(Amber, for example, has no social trait, and it's only mental trait is just a measure of psychic power. And that system works just fine. Matters of problem solving and intelligence are left up to roleplaying and the player's craftiness. That's much better than saying "you plan to role-play that you're smart? Well then you have to spend half your XP on stats you'll never roll.")

If you insist on charging the same amount for the three stats, they need to be roughly equal in their functional ability to solve problems.

In tonight's one-shot at Wayward, the system had those 3 traits: P/S/M.
  • I had Physical as my primary stat, and my character worked great and I had lots of fun. Someone else had literally nothing but Physical, and he did insanely well, too.
  • Everyone else (5 other PCs) had some measure of points wasted in Social and Mental, and had varying degrees of frustration.
  • The ship's Captain got creamed, because his maxed out social trait was unable to prevent any of the three fight scenes, and his correspondingly minimized physical trait meant he got hit again and again.
  • Even the two psychic characters only got to roll their psy powers twice each. Compare that to my Physical stat, which paid off at least a dozen times, in melee, ranged, and starship combat.
That's not intended in any way as a slam on the GM. It's an easy trap to fall into, because of the nature of how most RPGs are run. Here again is a link to a rant I wrote last year on this topic, which discusses the issue from a different (but relevant) angle.

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