April 16th, 2009

Each individual within the game simulation is ascribed four martial attributes. These attributes control the way the individual acts and reacts within the simulation to commands from the Players. These attributes are Mentality, Action, Reason and Stature. The acronym formed by these attributes is ‘M.A.R.S.‘, this is by design and named after the Roman God of War. Each of these attributes are assigned a numerical value from 1-10 within the Tactical and Strategic Spheres and 1-100 within Technical and Political  Spheres (these values are related – for more information see: Attribute Conversion).

  • Mentality: This determines how an individual will react to a threat, whether they group, go it alone or lead. It determines how much risk they are willing to accept to achieve their goals, their aggression levels, and their need to dominate.
  • Action: This is the sense and nervous system, gathering external information and giving feedback during movement to allow for adjustment to constant changes. It is the complete musculature control system of the body. It is used for combat skills, and even facial expressions, body language and communication.
  • Reason: The raw, unbiased, reasoning power of the individual. It is their ability to work things out,  to run though scenarios in their head to work out possible outcomes and to judge which is likely. It is the shrewdness  and sharpness of one’s mind.
  • Stature: This defines the physical frame of the (average) body, and is determined by height. It is used to derive other measures such as ‘stride’ and ‘reach’.

Each individual has a variation of these attributes, and some will perform better in some situations than others. This is ‘swings-and-roundabouts’, as having higher Attribute values does not always mean better results in all situations. This is down to the duality of the attributes, a decidedly ‘yin yang’ philosophy in their design. I have attempted to translate the concepts over to a westernised view point, and to marry the concepts of the two cultures for the purposes of this design. There is a lot of commonality in western and eastern thought, though often the differences are emphasised, I have chosen to concentrate on the similarity. This is done with the purpose of designing the WarSpike system with an aim to have it run in any culture and make sense.

Duality of the Attributes

WarSpike is unusual in that each attribute is a dichotomy made up of two aspects, a positive and a negative (eastern: ‘yin yang’) The two aspects are inversely proportional to each other. As the positive aspect increases the negative aspect decreases, and as the positive aspect decreases the negative aspect increases.

Example: An increase in the Stature stat bestows an increase in size and power which backs-up close combat strikes which increases the chance of causing significant damage. Therefore the positive value of Stature defines size and power. However an increase in size means that there is more body to hide, more bulk to shift when evading and more noise when sneaking. To put it simply: As Stature increases the trooper’s stealth abilities decreases. Therefore the negative value of Stature is stealth.

In the above example, and considered from the point of view of the Tactical Sphere, a Stature of ‘1’ is a person about 1′ tall. They have a power value of ‘1’ for strikes, but this is not all. The rest of the range 2-10 is not wasted. This value past ‘1’, the ‘negative aspect’ range of numbers of 2-10 is used for stealth. In effect a person with Stature attribute of ‘1’ will have a stealth value of ‘9’. As a whole they have strength:1 stealth:9 (or a ratio 1:9). Positive and Negative aspects within the same Attribute.

Design Note: Now it may seems obvious to assign two values to the attribute, one for the positive and one for the negative, i.e. Stature:+1/-9 (where +1 would be the positive value, and -9 the negative value). This is something I wished to avoid. I only wanted to use one value for both. To achieve this the testing of the positive and negative are not done in the same way, the negative aspect is not tested in the same way as a positive aspect;

Attribute Testing

This is done with a roll of ten sided dice. In Tactical and Strategic Spheres with Attributes 1-10 this is done with one D10. With Technical and Political with Attributes 1-100, this is done with two D10, one for the ‘tens’ and one for the ‘units’ – combined this is a D100. When testing the positive aspect we roll under the attribute value, and when testing the negative we roll over the attribute value.

  • Positive Aspect: Roll equal or under the Attribute Value
  • Negative Aspect: Roll over the Attribute Value

Notice: Failure in one aspect does not equate to a success in the other. Although the two aspects are inversely proportional, what they are used for is very different.

Example: To test the positive aspect of the Mentality Attribute value of ‘6’ within the Tactical Sphere we would roll 1D10 (one ten sided die) and if the result rolled was equal to or less than ‘6’ is would be classed as a success.

The test the negative aspect of the same value, we would roll 1D10 and if the result was over ‘6’ (7 or more) is would be classed as a success.


Not all Attributes are tested in this way: only Mentality and Action are ever actually tested like this, with Reason and Stature acting to ‘back up’ the results. In effect the last two Attributes enforce the first two Attributes.

For example: a successful positive Action test in combat is ‘backed up’ by the positive aspect of Stature. In effect the MA, or ‘Martial Arts’, test is backed-up by strength. If you hit the target or get into a bind, it is your stature (and hence strength) that will enforce that hit or bind. Strength and power combined with successful use of skill (correct selection of technique for the situation combined with timing and ability).

It is not always ‘positive matching positive’. The test of the positive aspect of an Attribute can also be back-up by the negative aspect of the enforcing Attribute. It should be noted that when this happens the positive aspect is being used to do something very different.

Example: To test ‘stealth’ we test using the positive aspect of Action, but unlike combat it will be ‘backed up’ by the negative aspect of Stature. This is because stealth uses the same sense systems and body control as combat, but the person being stealthy is not trying to overcome an opponent’s strength, they are trying to avoid being seen. Hence smaller is generally better (and ergo, lower Stature is better), as short people and creature make use of cover that is too small for a larger person of creature.

It also follows that the test of the negative aspect can be backed-up by the positive aspect of the enforcing Attribute, and also the test a negative aspect can be backed-up by the negative aspect of the enforcing Attribute in other cases.

The relationship between the Attributes can be summed up thus;

  • A Positive test of Mentality can be backed up by either the positive or negative aspect of Reason.
  • A Negative test of Mentality can be backed up by either the positive or negative aspect of Stature.
  • A Positive test of Action can be backed up by either the positive or negative aspect of Stature.
  • A Negative test of Action can be backed up by either the positive or negative aspect of Reason.

These relationships and associated tests are covered in greater detail under the main entries for each Attribute.


The order of the Attributes is based on priority. In a situation Mentality is often the first Attribute to be tested, followed by Action. The results of Mentality test can affect the options for any following Action tests. People usually perform better and at optimum ability when they are confident and familiar with the situation.

Design Note: This is arbitrary as the ‘senses’ are covered under Action and it could be argued that the senses come first, and hence Action should come first. This is true, but in most cases the first test in a situation is Mentality test due to ‘obvious’ sensory input (recognition and response). On the occasion when a sense test is called for (Action test) it is usually due to the results of a Mentality test – where the obvious sensory information collected provokes a Mentality test to look for more data. An example of this could be the recognition of a good ambush site, prompting a scan of the area. In this case the Mentality test is first…

It also keeps the design on track and maintains the MARS acronym 😉

Reason primarily backs up Mentality, and Stature primarily backups up Action, hence the nice flow and order of M>A>R>S. Stature is the last of the last, the final Attribute.


As a nod to western philosophical thoughts on dichotomies, Mentality can be seen as the complete ‘opposite’ of Stature. They are very different in nature and handled in completely different ways within the game system. By the same token Action is the opposite of Reason, but not as extreme as the Mentality-Stature dichotomy (hence Action and Reason being in the middle of ‘M-AR-S’).

There is a lot of dichotomies in the WarSpike system!

Comparable systems: This also ties the Western thought systems to the Eastern thought systems (summed up in ‘yin yang’). The above is basically a Western model of ‘yin yang’, and makes it easier to understand the concepts of Eastern philosophy to the Western mind (hmm, I may have gone too far there!)

Symbolism: A WarSpike view of the ‘yin yang’ symbol could be seen with ‘Mentality’ as the white area and ‘Stature’ being the black area. The two dots would be: the white dot in the black would be ‘Action’ and the black dot in the white would be ‘Reason’.

As such we humans could be seen as predominately existing as Mentality and Stature, emotional and physical, beings. To a much lesser degree we are about Action and Reason. Yet it is ironic that our minds dwell on the dots….


The term ‘attribute’ is capitalised when referring specifically to the game mechanic ‘Attributes‘. The is no need to refer to them as anything else, as all the Attributes share this duality of aspect, unless you are comparing it to other game systems.

In greater game terminology, these Attributes are ‘Binary Attributes‘ (I made that up). This can be modified in Eastern game settings and Augments they may be referred to as ‘Yin Yang Attributes‘, but that should not be taken as implying that these Attribute definitions as being part of Chinese philosophy, they are not, as this is a fusion on concepts. Although yin yang (or yin and yang in the West) is perhaps more recognisable to the public thanks to martial arts films and teachings, the concepts of such dichotomies are not alien to western thought, though not applied to combat to such a high degree as in the East.

  • Binary Attribute – Western
  • Yin Yang Attribute – Eastern

Nice and simple.

Further reading

This covers the basics of the Attributes. For a more detailed view of each Attribute in turn;

The above pages mention ‘modifier groups’, for and overview of these: Modifier Group Overview.

Category: Prototype Rules Page

Comments: 8

Feedback is vital to the development of WarSpike. I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to critique and discuss the concepts and rules of WarSpike, and especially those who's comments are posted below. If you would like to chip in too, you are most welcome! To jump to the comment form at the bottom of the page click here, or browse other's comments and hit 'reply'.

  1. Hive Trygon says:

    I love the idea of a “Binary” attribute. It makes the game much more balanced and gives creatures options they would otherwise lack due to weak strength, etc. I think I would be careful as to the placement of so called skills under each attribute however. To me strength could cause some one to be less stealthy but that is not always the case. Elephants and even gorilla can be very stealthy animals and are very, very strong. I think I’d equate stealth with agility or some form of action. However I’m not sure exactly which you plan to use and pair where. Strength might be the best fit. Can you add a “attributes notes” section to help clarify this a little?

    As for the mechanics I love them and the dichotomy of each is a great system. I highly approve.

    • Philip S says:

      The placement of modifiers are carefully matched to the Attribute, and the type of modifier are not the same for each Attribute; the Stature Attribute gains modifiers for ‘physical conditioning’ but not really any ‘skills’, skills are more down to the Action Attribute. You brought up stealth and I think I’ll rewrite the ‘back-up’ section and expand it a little as in retrospect is a little brief.

      Stealth: To clarify the Attribute pair used in stealth tests: they are Action and Stature. A stealth test comes under the Action Attribute with techniques and practice modifiers listed under it’s modifier group: ‘Repertoire‘. This test is backed-up and enforced by the negative aspect of Stature.

      The negative aspect of Stature is basically a ‘lack of Stature’ or ‘lack of height’. Generally speaking the smaller you are the easier it is to hide; as you can make use of cover a larger person could not. In effect the Stature Attribute is not improving your ‘skill’ as that is handled by Action, it is used to determine if you have cover and that can greatly affect your chance of remaining undetected.

      The best way to imagine it is that cover can hide a given amount of Stature. If you have a Stature lower that the cover value, you can make use of it. On top of this you can crouch down and go prone to make use of cover that has a value lower than your Stature. Going prone can reduce the Stature:6 to a prone value of ‘1’. However, crouching down and being prone affects movement speed.

      Can you add a “attributes notes” section to help clarify this a little?


      I’ll have a think on it, and post some modifications soon (I’ll maybe splice some of this reply in?).

  2. Hive Trygon says:

    I understand more just from the simple example of crouching. So to try and recap what you said, each attribute will be able to change uses slightly, almost like the MA, bind type tests? The second factor is always a negative though, could you give a possible chart then with action examples in a negative half of the dichotomy? That may be even more useful in helping explain the system.

    • Philip S says:

      All Attributes have a positive and negative aspect. The first two have tests that play to the positive and negative aspect, and these are then backed-up or enforced by the last two, either with their positive or negative aspect.

      To give another side of Action that is different from stealth: in combat hitting a person, a Martial Arts test, is backed-up and enforced by the positive aspect of Stature.

      Yet the positive aspect of Action is used in both stealth and martial arts tests.

      However, Action also has a negative aspect too, remember this post: ‘Action and learning in RPG‘. Here the negative of Action, ‘failure’, is used as a basis for learning and drive.

      These ‘failed’ Action rolls are is not backed up by Stature, but is instead backed up by Reason.

      could you give a possible chart

      This is the plan, like the flow charts for combat loops, but it’s not 100% complete on all the aspects and how they link together as yet.

      As a rough basis of principle;
      A Positive test of Mentality can be backed up by either the positive or negative aspect of Reason.
      A Negative test of Mentality can be backed up by either the positive or negative aspect of Stature.
      A Positive test of Action can be backed up by either the positive or negative aspect of Stature.
      A Negative test of Action can be backed up by either the positive or negative aspect of Reason.

      Phew, I think that’s correct and matches the rules (hmm… a negative test of Mentality is an individualistic test, and hence the opponent’s size can affect how one feels about taking them on, and the positive test of Mentality is grouping and that based around Tenets… yep it’s right! Nice and neat eh?)

  3. Hive Trygon says:

    That is exactly what I was looking for. I think it makes the tie between attributes and MA tests seem all the more fluid, or cohesive. I can also see different applications being used with this flow or loop.

    • Philip S says:

      That’s good to hear. I’ve updated the section on ‘Back-up’ with some of explanations I put forward in my replies to your questions. I do no want to explain everything here as it is intended as an overview, so just enough to get over the gist of it all. This leaves a few things unexplained, hanging, so I’ve made clear where the extra information can be found; I’ll delve into the workings of each Attribute on their own dedicated page. I think that is a reasonable compromise, and I hope it’s a little clearer now, but I would like to hear what you think or any tweaks that would improve it?

  4. Guy says:

    Crikey! Top work. I really think the yin-yang feel is perfect for those Fantasy Augments with non-humans. Just one question, to reiterate what Hive Trygon has already said, how will large, stealthy people act. Will we see some special rule that (for simplicities sake) could influence stealth? Stealth:+4. That sort of thing.

    Mentality vs. Action in Priority seems very solid to me. It feels very martial and correct that Mentality has the advantage over Action, another yin yang perhaps with the way martial arts emphasise both physical and mental abilities. Yoda would approve!

    Other than that interesting, solid and like always, elegant.

    • Philip S says:

      This is music to my ears! I took a while to get to this point and I am looking forward to pushing on. In answer to your question on stealth, yes: there are not only techniques to be learnt but modifiers to he had. This is all covered in the Modifier Group for Action called ‘Repertoire‘ which is a collection or pre-learnt and practised set-pieces, moves and techniques.

      One of these can be ‘Stealth’. All techniques first come in at ‘+0’ when first learnt (but you then have the option to use them), and regular practice can impart bonuses. Someone who does of lot of sneaking about could have a generic Sneak+3. Combined with an average human’s Action:6 would give an overall value of ‘9’ (or 90% in the Technical Sphere). The would, more often than not (9 times out of 10) go undetected if cover is available or they are out of a persons line of sight.

      Though technically due to the way stealth works a ‘fail’ is really only the opportunity for a guard to make their Action (sense) test to notice the failure. So some one with sneak:9 is actually going to succeed against a regular human of Action:6 about 19 times in 20 (specifically 94%)

      This and more will be covered in detail under Repertoire. I plan to use stealth/ sneak as one of the example skills (skill sets), along with various combat techniques and perhaps some crafts 😉

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