Attributes – simple complexity

August 15th, 2011

This article introduces some of the thought processes behind Attributes and modifiers, and is targeted more to the Technical Sphere and for possible use in an RPG. I’m thinking about how to phase this concept, and what can be cut out in a quick start rule set.


One of the radical (stupid/ crazy/ wtf???) aspects of WarSpike is lumping together all physical abilities in the Action attribute (the command and control system of the mind over the body). This includes everything that uses muscles, from gymnastics to fine manual dexterity, right down to facial expressions. It also includes the five senses and their sensitivity; which provides feedback, allowing us to adjust our movements to events as they unfold.

All the variability is moved over into the modifier group Repertoire. Included within Repertoire are all the skills and variables that modify actions, along with traits and other special abilities that enhance (or harm) the Action attribute.

This allows you to make the character as complex or as simple as you wish. You could leave Action as it is, without any modifiers in Repertoire, and use a single value to resolve virtually anything physical the ‘average’ man could do. Nice and simple. On the other hand you may enjoy more complex games like D&D or Rolemaster and feel a strong need to fill Repertoire with all kinds of modifiers.

For example: In many traditional RPGs the fine manipulation of small objects is down to ‘Dexterity’, a specific testable statistic along with associated skills. In WarSpike the Dexterity stat is moved to Action and becomes a modifier. The Dexterity modifier can have sub-modifiers (the same as skills), allowing a PC to be defined to what ever level of detail the Player desires.

This is not too controversial, but other stats get moved over to Action such as ‘Charisma’. I think many may scratch their head for a second and think: WTF???

Communication: In many games communication is often handled by a stat called ‘Charisma’, or something similar. A specific statistic used to test against when social interaction is call for. In WarSpike this stat is moved over to Action, and is a modifier.

This means that Charisma is under the same Attribute as Agility, Combat, and other physical skills. The reasoning behind this is a quirk of WarSpike’s set-up. In essence the ability to communicate effectively is down to well-timed facial expressions and body language appropriate to the culture you are in, correct pronunciation, observation of reactions, ability to listen, mirroring, etc. which is all down to muscle control moderated by the senses, and hence ‘Action’. However, Action does not work in isolation it is ‘backed up’ by Stature, or Reason. In the case of communication the back up Attribute is Reason.

Within the modifiers group of Reason you’ll find ‘language’ and all sub-sets, but it also includes stuff like ‘culture’. Knowing a language allows you to communicate complex ideas, it also allow you to understand what is said, but it also ‘backs up’ your ability to use the more complex communication skills. Without good communication skills of Action, a PC will be perceived as a monotone bore droning on about stuff no one cares about, who is completely oblivious that everyone in earshot is agitated, and doesn’t take the hint to shut up (:P). With a high communication skills of Action the PC can inject some personality, embellish their story, to make even the dullest of subjects come alive.

Learning curve

Not everyone is familiar with RPGs, and if WarSpike is their first introduction to the hobby, I want the learning curve to be as low as possible. To this aim, I wish to delay when the modifiers are introduced.

New Players can start simple and work their way up to more complexity should they wish it. Once the players have a grasp of the core mechanics they can then delve into modifiers. This allows the modifiers to be fed to the gaming group at a rate they can easily absorb.

The ‘simple’ PCs without any modifiers are impossibly average at all common skills (universal to all) and lack any of the specific background or occupation skills. Once the Players understand how things work, they can pick an occupation and start to access higher rules.

Seasoned veterans of RPGs can jump in at the deep end; pick an occupation and work up a far more detailed PC, with back story, loads of modifiers etc. before they sit down to play.


This system also make NPC generation very simple, and relative to what they are used for in the scenario. Quick kill ‘mooks’ in a dungeon crawl can be summed up with the Attributes alone, and you probably do not need all the Attributes. If they are going to fight no matter what you can dump Mentality, the chances are Reason is not going to matter, and only Action and Stature are going to play a part (along with gear).

More complex NPCs can have occupations and the GM can simply use the occupation mods ‘as is’. While is may be a good idea to records the mods of pre-defined NPCs in their stat block, along with any extra stuff, for NPC the GM invents ‘as needed’ they can simply reference the occupation. As an average man is ‘6’ (60) in all Attributes, it’s very easy to figure out what this NPC’s abilities are.

It might be an idea to include an example NPC of each occupation, so the players can see what they are getting, and as a resource for the GM.

Categories: Concepts, Rules |

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