How Many Stats?

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What’s the sweet spot for the number of attributes and skills in an RPG ruleset?

Last week, I complained a wee bit about the proliferation of attributes and skills in Eclipse Phase. One of my biggest frustrations with the Dresden Files RPG is how many disconnected social skills it has (Contacts, Deceit, Empathy, Intimidation, Performance, Presence, Rapport… ). Old World of Darkness games had a huge issue with introducing extra skills in supplements… which could be problematic when the number of skill points to split among them didn’t increase.
I’m not a fan of attribute proliferation, but I might have gone too far the other way. In the Fate-based post-apocalyptic game I’m running, the skill list is:
  • Athletics
  • Combat
  • Knowledge
  • Persuasion
  • Will
  • Magic
There aren’t any attributes. That’s pretty much it, except for a couple of derived stats like Initiative and Defense.
Each character has a number of Aspects, though, that describe them. One of the tweaks I made here was requiring an Aspect that serves as a descriptor to each of the above skills. So, for instance, an android PC in the game has the Knowledge descriptor of Damaged memory cores alongside her rating and another has the Combat descriptor of Curl up and take it (alongside her very low combat score). Hmmm… the descriptors aren’t generally negative. Those two just stuck out at me. In Fate terms, these are normal aspects. They just help to specify how the character applies each of their skills. Characters also have stunts, which let them tweak things in various ways.
Part of me really likes this approach. Another part of me thinks, “Only six skills?! Are you crazy?!” There is, of course, a perfect reply to that second part. It goes like this:
  • Strength
  • Dexterity
  • Constitution
  • Intelligence
  • Wisdom
  • Charisma



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