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# [RPG Design Theory]Statistic-Controlled PC Perspective

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Disclaimer: I am not discussion building an RPG. I am not discussing a style of RPG, or even a story of an RPG. I am not discussing mathematics behind an RPG, nor how to balance an RPG. I am discussing Game Design. Be forewarned now: should you attempt to hijack, troll, or otherwise devolve this thread into crap, your post will be edited, if you fight the edit an arbitrary number of times, you will be probated. Only serious Designers and members need reply. Thank you. ---------------------------------------------------------------- On my lunch break today, I had a bit of a discussion with myself in my head. For whatever reason, I was recalling the olden days of my P&P RPG sessions with friends. And how horrible many of the others were at actually playing their characters by the numbers. A character with a numerically "well below average" intelligence would make intelligently tactical and strategic moves. A character with a horribly deathly ill constitution-like stat would order a bottle of Vodka from a bar. This, it occured to me today, was horrible. Idiots don''t use tactics, and sicklings don''t do hard drinks knowingly. But players generally just use their statistics to obvious gaming advantage. That Intelligence thing doesn''t do much when I can just use my Strength to lug around a few extra assault rifles. What good is Charisma when I can go in shooting? Oh, no, my Mage doesn''t need strength, just a high Intelligence and some Wisdom. The examples go on and on, folks. My thought-provoker is how to take this away from players in the mystical realm of CRPG''s, without hindering the overall experience? There are, of course, approaches towards this end. Fallout and Arcanum come immediately to mind. Especially towards Intelligence and Charisma(and assorted skills). A genius was given a high amount of choices while in communication with an NPC, while a bumbling manchild was given a basic "Ugh?" option. Charisma, to note, made some of those choices ''correct''. Interesting, but it still left them with the ability to just tinker with stats to get the ''right mix'' and play the game with characters like chess pieces, rather than extensions of themselves. Help me design a flexible way to edit the entire perception of a game, based around the statistics that determine ''who'' a PC is. I''m especially wondering less about a post-usage effect(Strength lets you carry more) so much as a pre-usage effect(you perceive or are shown the game differently due to your attributes). Quickie examples before I go to bed and let you all stew before I check in the morning: I''ll use generic d20 attributes for convenience, though this can apply to almost any PC-related stat. Strength-??? Dexterity-??? Constitution-Silent extra nutrition from food/drink. Intelligence-Extra statistics about the world and objects in it. Wisdom-Cues about how much danger is posed by certain actions/NPCs/objects in the world. Charisma-NPCs have a habit of following the character around somewhat silently, at a distance. So come on, lurkers and old-timers, let''s get this forum jump started again like it used to be when people cared about this sort of thing! - It''s a life''s work - :Image Hosting @ $5/3 Months :30Gig/month bandwidth Reseller Plan @$40/3 Month Generic WebHost: The Cheapest Hosting Around! -ryan@lecherousjester.com

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Well I think the first place to start is with character creation, there was an interesting idea that saw used only once but after adapting it I think it could be a very interesting twist. The idea is having all stats hidden. Instead of seeing numerical stats or even a list of stats, you’re instead given just a verbal description of the character. Such as:

"You are an intelligent and creative woman, with a thirst for travel and exploration. Despite your frequent health problems and shy demeanor."

I think this is one way to get the player to think more about making there character extension of themselves. Since it removes the player from traditional notion of stat tinkering.

As far as how they I used I think it’s a tougher one since it really requires a more interactive and flexible design to turn stats into more then just numerical modifiers for dice rolls.

Stats could play a role in how much time and effort a character devotes to tasks. A more intellectual and scholarly character would be willing to spend more time reading books in library, while a more athlete tic and less scholarly character might quickly become bored.

Perhaps the characters perception could in fact be waited attributed based on the characters other stats that reflect how they perceive the game. Maybe even making objects with in the game more or less noticeable and detectable. For instance a gun enthusiasts character would have guns displayed more prominently maybe they walk into the bar and notice the old gun on the wall it starts glinting and they recognize it as famous weapon. Which could the lead to interesting conversation with the bartender about the gun. While a character with almost know knowledge of guns, would walk into the same bar and the gun might appear dull, rusted and hardly noticeable from the background.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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quote:
Original post by Run_The_Shadows
I'm especially wondering less about a post-usage effect(Strength lets you carry more) so much as a pre-usage effect(you perceive or are shown the game differently due to your attributes).

Quickie examples before I go to bed and let you all stew before I check in the morning:
I'll use generic d20 attributes for convenience, though this can apply to almost any PC-related stat.
Strength-???
Dexterity-???
Constitution-Silent extra nutrition from food/drink.
Intelligence-Extra statistics about the world and objects in it.
Wisdom-Cues about how much danger is posed by certain actions/NPCs/objects in the world.
Charisma-NPCs have a habit of following the character around somewhat silently, at a distance.

Excellent post. Here's some of my initial thoughts on the subject: (Warning: random braindump ahead)

Poor roleplayers usually see their weaker stats as an obstacle to splatting things rather than as an opportunity for roleplay. Offering good xp incentives for roleplaying rather than purely for hack and slash is an obvious way to counter this problem in P&P RPGs, but would be difficult - if not impossible - to apply to a CRPG.

I really like the idea of subtly changing the game world to reflect the characters strengths and weaknesses - there is a concern niggling at the back of my mind however, that while such an approaches might make the world more believable (in that all player characters are played in a way which suits their statistics) it would seem to trivialize the actual roleplaying aspect.

There is also the issue that the stats used in the d20 system can be interpreted in many ways. A low dexterity could be due to a visual impairment, or a physical deformity, or the character could simply be a flat footed clumsy oaf. A character with a low charisma might be physically attractive, but it hopelessly shy, or perhaps has a speech problem which makes it hard for him to communicate with people. There are all sorts of characteristics which could lead to someone having a poor score in a particular stat, and letting the computer 'assume' those reasons might be treading on the toes of genuine roleplayers who want to create their own.

One possibility is to develop a much more detailed set of traits and characteristics which can be used to build up a stunningly accurate description of a character, rather like the sort of description TechnoGoth was talking about. These traits can be purchased at the cost of a number of points, and the number of points you have to spend depends on how good your relative stats are. The computer can randomly generate these traits for players who don't care about the details, or can be edited by hand by the players who really want to get involved in the creation of their character.

So, suppose you have a character with a charisma of 7. This might translate into a Handsome(+2) character, with a Speech Impediment (-1) and Rudeness (-4).

You could then alter the player's perception to match this, more detailed description. The character is physically attractive, so he's good at getting the attention of NPCs and members of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, he's pretty hopeless at actually communicating with them - it takes him a few goes to make himself understood, and when he does finally succeed, he's likely to offend them, either driving them away, making them unhelpful, or actually offending them to the point where they attack. The first is relatively easy - NPC's, particularly those of the opposite sex will be drawn to the character. Implementing the other two is a bit trickier to do without doing something like restricting the options. My suggestion would be to keep the options the same for ALL PCs, albeit slightly modified to reflect their personality. So where a normal character might have the options:

1. "Excuse me good sir, I don't suppose you know the way to Elflandia?"
2. "Good afternoon. Could you direct me to ye olde weapone shoppe?"

our PC would have the options:

1. "OI! You! Yeth you in that thickly yellow thirt. How do I get to Elflandia from here?"
2. "Hey, is thith the way to the weapon thop? I THAID THE WEAPON THOP! WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING AT THITHEAD?"

The NPC could still provide some essential help to the character, while still behaving in a realistic way - from then on, she'll be less willing to help him, because attractive though he is, she isn't going to take that sort of abuse again.

[edited by - Sandman on November 15, 2003 6:11:04 AM]

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Isn''t the question : "Where do the Character starts and the Player ends ?"
Which can be seen as "When to use Player''s skills instead of Character''s skills ?"

Most ''mind'' attributes are used within the rule system, that is they are not really here to be played but rather to complete the player''s capability. Intelligence is often used for wizards...

In a computer RPG, you rely on the player Intelligence and Wisdom, so those traits shouldn''t be on the character side (remove them, replace them by "magic feeling" attribute and "faith" attribute, respectively), the Strength, Beauty (as opposed to Charisma which not only evaluate how good you look but how good you speak and behave), Constitution should be character related.

The tricky point now is about acrobatic skill for example, is it up to the player to control the character through the pad (like in rayman, mario...) or is it up to the character to do it ?
What about fighting ? Is it the player''s skill that is used (like in a FPS) or is it the character skill ? (and then it should be turn based)

That obviously depends on the gameplay and user friendlyness you want your game to be.

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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The d20 or ''classic'' attribute systems do /not/ work well with this system. That much I''ve incurred already. To edit the game world around /physical/ statistics seems to be a hopeless chore, even though actual game mechanics are easily changed.

Ingenu: While removing any Player-based statistics(Intelligence / Wisdom) from the game immediately strikes me as brilliant, it comes into conflict with a new issue I have thought about(which will come post-replies).

Sandman: Again, see note that comes below, but is stemmed off your idea to break up the ''core attributes'' into something more definable and explainable.

TechnoGoth: Slight inspiration from you as well. \/\/\/

-------------------------------------------------------------------
New thesis:
1) Character creation should be based outside of the range of numbers. A strong character should have visible musculature. A charismatic one - beautiful. A nimble one, fit and trim. When the statistics are re-rolled, the visible proto-character should be changed to suit the new characteristics.

2)All Player-based statistics should be taken out of mechanics. If the Player cannot use his /own/ Intelligent Intuition to piece together some game plot twist hours before it is given to him, then neither should his character.

3)(Slightly Off Current Topic)A ''Sanity'' attribute, ala Call of Cthulu would be wonderful for what I''m talking about with this entire design aspect.

And I have work so I''ll check this tonight. Happy designing, folks.

- It''s a life''s work
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In a CRPG, I can see a couple of different ways to get players to play according to the numbers. (And because the thread isn't about how to balance an RPG, I won't discuss which attributes belong in a CRPG, just how to work with the ones you got. *ahem* *cough*)

1) Carrot and Stick

Taking intelligence for example. In some situations, you can present the player with a number of different choices, and rate the choices according to intelligence. Then, if the player does something spectacularly boneheaded when playing an idiot, give him some sort of bonus. Maybe an experience award, maybe increment some karma counter or a luck bonus, mana from the heavens, etc. Then if a player playing an idiot does the spectacularly brilliant choice, hit him with a penalty. Less experience for the encounter, bad karma or luck, additional wear and tear on equipment. Maybe if there's a follower system, his followers might start to think he's demon possessed.

This is great for the vodka-swilling, constitution 3 mage too. Especially the party thinking he's demon possessed. I like that idea a lot.

2) Make the choices for him

If you have actions rated like in first part, then maybe the program will automatically execute the action for the proper attribute score.

I dislike this idea, as it does get rid of player freedom, but done sparingly it might add a little versimilitude to the situations the character finds himself in.

3) Muck with the attributes

This would probably work best combined with the carrot and stick method. Basically, if the character consistently makes smart choices when he's a dumb character, the program should increase his intelligence.

The evil flip side to this is that there's no such thing as a free lunch. When he does increase his intelligence, lower another stat. Or two. Or three. Or all of the rest.

Of course, you don't necessarily need to implement the evil flip side. The classic roguelike, nethack, allowed increase and decrease of stats through an exercise/abuse system. (I would say that the system was subject to abuse, except for the small fact that nethack is so freaking hard that even abusing every game feature you can find it's still nearly impossible to ascend.)

And let us not mention the evil, horrible, dispicable version of this technique that Ultima Online used. (*mutter* *mutter* tank mages *mutter*)

4) Filtering choices

The Fallout/Arcanum method can be applied to more than just dialog choices. Maybe you can only do a feint in combat if your intelligence and dexterity are high enough. Maybe you can only do a Flaming Dragon Punch if your wisdom and strength are high enough.

One idea I like is, on a turn-based combat style rpg, is to allow only certain patterns of movement based on stats. For example, a character might only be able to move in straight lines if he has a low intelligence or dexterity. With a little bit more of either, he can do some zig-zags.

5) Smart is dumb / dumb is smart

So there's a choice that seems really, really dumb, and the chracter with intelligence 18 makes it. Retcon things so it turns out to be the right thing. Like pushing the "self-destruct button" when trying to disable the burglar alarm. Make it so that the really smart person got inside the security designer's brain and realized that the "self-destruct button" is the last thing an intruder would want to push, so it's the right thing to do to get the alarm to shut off. If the dumb person, or even averagedly intelligent person hit that buttom, the alarm will shut off, but not in the way intended.

Or there's a choice that just seems outragously offensive. If the high charisma guy picks it, make the person react well anyways. Maybe the NPC likes being insulted, or respects people with the guts to pull it off, etc.

edit: formatting

[edited by - SiCrane on November 15, 2003 1:49:23 PM]

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quote:

New thesis:
1) Character creation should be based outside of the range of numbers. A strong character should have visible musculature. A charismatic one - beautiful. A nimble one, fit and trim. When the statistics are re-rolled, the visible proto-character should be changed to suit the new characteristics.

2)All Player-based statistics should be taken out of mechanics. If the Player cannot use his /own/ Intelligent Intuition to piece together some game plot twist hours before it is given to him, then neither should his character.

Sounds very familiar... oh yes it''s in my 3 years old Game Design Document

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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2) The problem I see with this is how do you spererate character and player attributes, which apply to characters and which apply to player?

example intellegence:
If this a player attribute then how do you intergate aspect into the game when character intellegence is need. For instance during the course of the game the character finds a book titled "The application of thermal dynamics in optical based weapondry" If intellegence is a soly player based attribute does that mean any character who finds the book can read it and build a laser? As opposed to intellegence being a character based attribute in which case an intellegence rating could be used to deterime wether the character can understand the book.

but lets say for a moment that someone devises away to overcome the obstacle I just stated. What if instead of removing those stats entirely they are replaced with an assist system? For instance younger players may not be able to figure out the subtile clues and problems the designer has placed into a game but at the same time that should not prevent them from playing the game. If the "player" attributes acted like an assist the game could adjust the amount of help the player is given in those circumstances. This allows more experinced players to adjust the game to there liking, by lowering the assist attributes they would have a far more challenging experince then some one who has them all at max.

A further thought assist attributes could possible even be used to customize the entire game to the players liking. Imagine for a moment that all stats are player assist stats. What if by lowering agility it turned combat from selecting moves from a list, into a pseudo fighting game in which the player enters button combinations inorder to perform moves. Obviously that might not appeal to everyone, but it might appeal to some and thus both people can be made happy by adjusting the agility assist attribute.

A thought on stats:
It occured to me that part of the problem with players playing out of character is the lack of differential between stats points. In most game have 5 strength or 6 strength is not signficant maybe you can''t use a weapon but thats about it. What if the diffrence between points become far more signficant?

Example:
A factorial system. meaning that
2 strength compared 1 strength would mean 2x as strong
3 to 1 would mean 6x
4 to 1 would mean 24x
3 to 2 would mean 3x
4 to 2 would mean 12x
4 to 3 would mean 4x
and so on...

This would make the stats have a far greater impact on gameplay and possibly even force the character to play in the confines of their character. Since your 4 strength soilder maybe able to defeat a room full of enemies with only a sword but your 1 strength major definetly won''t be able to beat the same room full of enemies with just a sword.

3) Sanity I always liked the idea of sanity, ever since I included it in an early gothic themed pen and paper rpg I was working on high school. Although I took to further step basicly it was used for more the just sanity checks. Whenever it decreased the player made a role on the dementia table and thus their character was stricken with a new dementia, it made things rather interesting when the swab dashing vampire know finds themselves plagued with invisable mosqutios. The dementia could be lifted if they regained sanity. Although it would be harder to transfer this into CRPG since the dementia would have to be represented soley through in game means. Although it could work. I personally think it would be a rather amusing if a character with a certain dementia could gain valubale clues by conversing with windmills.

"1) Carrot and Stick"

I have to say I really dislike this idea, I would hate to play a game like that. I would much rather not have the option presented because I''m deficent in that stat then be penilized because me idea of what 3 intellegence means is diffrent then the game designers arbitray desicion on what 3 intellegence means.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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When I use to play P&P RPG games if you tried to do something beyond your stats you usually ended up doing something embarassing, painful or both. For example if you want to dodge the bullets matrix style then pull out your own gun and shoot all the enemies between the eyes but you only have a dexerity of 3, so you end up getting tangled in your own tranchcoat and fall to the floor in a mess of flailing limbs and cloth.

On the flipside if someone with high stats wants to do something dumb go ahead and let them, everyone makes mistakes

Clippy:"OMG, A NUMBAR! Let me format it for you"
Unsuspecting Student: "Ahhhhh! Damn you paperclip you ruined my paper. A thousand deaths upon you!"

"Game Programming: Without programming you''ve just got game"

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Perhaps its time to think backwards.

We have 6 stats to define a character, and a subset of skills and disabilities to further define that character. However, the point of roleplaying is to define your characters and behave according to a role, NOT a roll. By rolling dice, we figure in accidents or sheer luck, but we don''t tell the player how to behave given circumstances. Numbers work great in equations, but we don''t have equations for noticing a fine gun in a bar.

Now, lets suppose for a second that we don''t define out characters with 6 stats. Lets assume for the moment that we don''t need these variables, because there are other ways to perform the calculations that we need. Lets also assume that we want the most effective way to define our character''s behavior. Given that requirement, it seems more to the point that a characters should be define useing words, rather then numbers.

My suggestion, rather then rolling for stats, we present our players a list of Attributes. Proficiencies, Drawbacks, Benefits, whatever. So, rather then fiddle with numbers, the players pick specifically what traits the character will have.
* Good with Ladies
* Loves Guns
* Favorite Color: Red
* Agile
* Hates Violence
* Low Alcohol Tolerance
So, this character which I''ll call Vash and consider myself clever, has enough definition to behave appropriately in a role-playing context. Perhaps we need more focus by defining some kind of Crappy-Okay-Decent tier with skills, but we should be able to extapolate the numbers that we need when it comes to hard calculation.

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