Sunday, March 25, 2012

High and Low Ability Scores

N. Wright over at Lawful Indifferent has an interesting post on Inverse Ratios specifically the relation between ability scores and magical ability.  In the system he proposes the worse off your standard ability scores are the greater your magical potential is.  It's a neat idea and I've been toying with the idea myself but I'll get to that later.  The really great part of the post is the explanation for why.  You see Magic is an intoxicating and corrupting agent, drawing heavily on the magical forces both weakens the mind and the body. It is not uncommon for a magic-user to have shaking hands, poor focus and a gaunt figure.  Now Wizards as drug addicts doesn't appeal to everyone but I think we can all appreciate it when a game mechanic subtly does a bit of world building for you.  I know I do.  I plan on doing a series on World Building through mechanics and attention to detail but that is time for another day.  In the meantime I'd like to share what I've been doing with giving low scores a purpose which Lawful Indifferent inspired me to take another look at.

First I'm going to start off listing the ability scores.  Each of these are player chosen, that is in addition to your  four standard primary ability scores each player chooses two scores that best represent their character.  Now there is certainly no need to do so at the very start, if you are having difficulty with a character concept you are encouraged to leave them as placeholders and if you find yourself sliding into the roll of the Courageous Knight Errant then you can choose the Brave score during play.  You may be wondering why only two scores?  Why not all of them?  Well the reason you only choose two scores is because you simply aren't noteworthy in the other areas.  Why bother listing them if they aren't noteworthy.  The primary ability scores on the other hand are defining of your most important aspects and of course are not to be ignored. 

Player Chosen Ability Scores
These attributes are a reflection of the key points of your character.  By choosing an ability it shows that you exemplify what others can only hope to emulate.  These player chosen scores exist to supplement your primary abilities and to open up interesting traits and quirks for that character.  Only two of these extra ability scores are chosen because you are not noteworthy in other areas.

By far the most unique aspect of these player chosen scores is that a low score is much more than simply a bad score.  Low scores typically have a complementary effect compared to the merits of a high score.  This is a good way to create a flawed character without being overtly punished for it. 

This reflects how receptive your character is to the ambient mana and elements of the surrounding world.  Characters with a high essence have a certain purity to them that allows greater control of the elemental forces as well as an increased capacity to administer and receive healing.
Characters with very low essence have been corrupted by the void granting them a startling resistance to elemental effects and causing their own elementalism to be more hazardous to resist.  Unfortunately this price means they heal much more slowly than the common man.

This is a measure of your bravery in the face of danger, your ability to overcome fear and to boldly lead loyal follows where few have gone before.  Courageous characters are better able to defeat powerful legendary beasts and even the odds when outnumbered.
Characters with very low Courage are Cowardly.  While they perform very poorly in a standup fight against renowned men and beasts they are very adept at striking fear into the hearts of men and exploiting that in their prey.

Talent  (Formerly Expertise then Prowess)
You have a knack for a great many things, a good fortune with many skills you know and a natural talent with those you haven't yet encountered.  A talented character picks up most jobs and skills very quickly and can perform them adequately and often spectacularly.
An untalented character makes up for this by working much harder and often times this gumption allows them to eventually exceed their peers who all too often rely only on their natural gifts.

Belief  (Formerly Faith and Determination)
Belief in oneself and in others, sometimes even in a higher power or ideal, is a driving force in your character's success.  Characters with high belief have a greater degree of resolve and convictions, they are better able to rally others to their cause and when things look uncertain these characters never falter.
Characters with very low Belief are doubters and skeptics rarely unable to fully commit to any one idea or cause.  Fortunately this means they are more difficult to sway and rarely fall under the mob's sway and in some cases dispersing them altogether.

Guile  (Formerly Charm and Wits)
This is a measure of your quick wits and cunning plans.  It encapsulates a certain slyness to your character, an ability to recognize and tell half-truths and subtle deceptions with nary a tell.  It represents your ability to fast talk your way past guards, to grease the right palms and to the attract the gaze of an invaluable courtesan gaining contacts in the highest of places.
A character with very low guile may be gullible but amicable and more likely to be included around socialites making you an adequate sycophant.  They may be very genuine in their mannerisms making it easier for people to believe them.  While they may not be as quick thinking they often notice inconsistencies that others might have raced past and are more cautious in their dealings with strangers after being hoodwinked enough times.

There you have it, five different ability scores for players to choose from when creating their characters.  A way to make very different characters and only needing to play around with ability scores, often the first step in character creation.  In the descriptions of each I talked conceptually about how a low score might be handled.  Since I've recently decided to move away from ability modifiers almost entirely the actual mechanics of how these were implemented has to be scrapped and reworked.  In the coming week I hope to work through each of these stats, creating a separate post for each optional attribute.

Hope you enjoyed reading and furthermore I hope this spurred a few ideas of your own.