Kasper Brohus Allerslev started a conversation a while back about the purpose of base stats in DW…

Kasper Brohus Allerslev started a conversation a while back about the purpose of base stats in DW…

Kasper Brohus Allerslev started a conversation a while back about the purpose of base stats in DW (http://goo.gl/u0YCFJ). This left me wondering if there is any way, to increase their impact in the game. Base stats just tend to sit there after CharGen in most OSR style games. I realize this isn’t true in DW (gaining levels) but I’d like to see them do more.

I’ve come up with three possibilities:

1. Creating custom moves that use Stat Scores instead of Stat Modifiers.

2. Introduce an Ability Check (not sure this works in DW)

3. Add new mechanics that work with Stats (not sure what though)

Does anybody have any ideas on how base stats could be used to make them a bit more important to gameplay?


55 thoughts on “Kasper Brohus Allerslev started a conversation a while back about the purpose of base stats in DW…”

  1. Alternately, you can just remove ability scores since they (as you point out) sit there doing nothing for most of the game.

    What if you just rank your stats by the ability mod?

    Then you only have to deal with a range of +3 to -1 in any given game. 🙂

  2. Fate has totally removed “stats” from the game, except certain hacks like Fate Freeport, but they are really just reskinned approaches.  I think the stats in DW are merely legacy items from D&D.  It helps a new player get his head around the character, but plays no part in actual play beyond determining hit points (Con).

  3. Ran a campaign last year where we took ability scores out and went with straight modifiers. Characters got a +1 modifier to add to any stat at level 3, 6, and 9. Seem to work out fine. 

  4. As far as getting rid of stats, I think the modifier approach works beautifully. Then just figure out how you want to handle HP and you’re set.

    That same thread included some discussion on modifying stats when you level up. I thought it was interesting. Credit for the following goes to Alex Norris.

    Method 1

    Systematize how points are distributed per level for maximum gain.

    Level 2

    Increase lowest stat (8) by 1 (mods: -1 goes to +0)

    Level 3

    Increase secondary stat (15) by 1 (+1 to +2)

    Level 4

    Increase third lowest stat (12) by 1 (+0 to +1)

    Level 5+6

    Increase primary stat (16) by 2 (+2 to +3)

    Level 7+8

    Increase secondary stat (15+1) by 2 (+2 to +3).

    Level 9+10

    Doesn’t matter, you can’t raise any mods with two points.

    This leaves you with a final stat array of +3, +3, +1, +1, +0, +0. This makes you very good at whatever your primary and secondary lets you do, okay at whatever you chose as your tertiary/quaternary, and middling at everything else. Alternatively, you could put the two points from level 2 and 4 into your tertiary to end up with +3, +3, +2, +0, +0, -1.

    Method 2

    Just let players pick where they want those +1s. In this case, you can just give the players a +1 every other level (2, 4, 6, 8, 10) to put wherever they want.

    Concerning HP, Alex believed there were three ways of handling it. Two methods didn’t make much sense. Ultimately he decided that handing out Fixed Values were the only thing that made sense. I agree that this seems to make the most sense.

  5. A classic Ability Check really is pointless in DW isn’t it? With such narrative freedom and success measured in margins, there really isn’t a need for it. Do you agree?

  6. Yeah. Also, bear in mind that the use of ability scores is really more a nod to D&D by the designers than anything else. The modifier ranges are straight out of Apocalypse World and are all you really need (with the exception of HP calculation, DW specific).

  7. John Lewis your method is how I intend to do it. I actually really love the way DW does things with having stuff key off of your die, and how die size = how powerful you are. I could see incorporating a few other mechanics to work off of that.

  8. I don’t feel comfortable with outright removing the base stats. You could do it, but why? If I can’t think of anyway to use them with custom moves or new mechanics, I think I will go with Alex Norris’s “Add a +1 to Stat Modifier of choice every other level” for handling leveling up.

    I’m really hopeful that somebody has an idea on how to use the Stats or the Modifiers. Debilities is cool. Alex said he remembers a conversation people were having about introducing Mana Points that worked off WIS the same way HP uses CON. I think that sounds pretty cool ^_^

  9. Why would removing them make you feel uncomfortable? They seem to be a needless complication as well as an artifact of old design that the game really doesn’t need. Debilities, on the other hand, are pretty cool. The idea of having magic points key off of WIS is cool too.

    But then, you would have to codify each spell, how many points does each cost? And so forth, it all seems like a step away from DW.

    An idea I’ve been working on involves using the Hold mechanic as-is to fuel magic abilities.

  10. If you want to go down the road of making the stats themselves matter more, you’d have to find a good, meaningful use for each one.  Ideally, it’d be one that ties it back to old school use(s) of each stat.

    An obvious one would be making your Load = your Strength attribute.  Constitution and Charisma are already in use (for HP and cost-reduction).  The others are much less obvious. 

    Intelligence… you could say that each character is “proficiency slots” in a number of languages and/or skills equal to their Intelligence.  Don’t have a list to pick from, and don’t have the player pick before play begins.  Like during play the GM asks “you speak Orc?”  “Gruumsh, yes I do!” and you write down “Orcish” in your list.  “You know how to pick locks, Siggun?”  “Sure do, I wasn’t always a cleric, y’know” and you write down “Picking Locks” on your list.  You get to do that Intelligence times, and then you’ve defined the non-obvious skills of your character’s background.  (Don’t use up spaces with obvious stuff. An elf doesn’t need to write down “Elven” and a ranger doesn’t need to write down “Woodcraft.”)

    Wisdom and Dexterity… nothing jumping to mind that wouldn’t be class- or genre-specific.  Like, you could use Wisdow for “mana points” or “sanity points” but those wouldn’t be universally applicable.  Dexterity… yeah, I got nothing on Dexterity.

    (NOTE:  Not necessarily suggestion that one SHOULD use these changes.  Just offering possibilities in response to the OP. And procrastinating at work.)

  11. Jay Vee I feel uncomfortable because it would be removing something from the system that technically has a purpose (though barely) with no clear gain or positive change. It seems like I would be doing it just because I could. Could you give me an example or two of your idea for hold-fueled magic abilities?

    Jeremy Strandberg I’m really digging your ideas! I was thinking the other day something I really enjoyed in B/X was how everybody knew X amount of languages. This seems like a very clear and easy fix. I also like how it comes up in play. Makes more sense than picking Pixie and hoping you meet some in the game =P. Any ideas on how you would figure out how many slots a person was granted? Maybe work on Modifiers? +0 = No slots, +3 = 3 slots? What would that mean for a negative modifier though? You have trouble with your default language or maybe you can’t read =P?

    Dexterity is usually a measure of reflexes, agility, blocking, or ability to perry. Still, how that comes across in actual real game terms, not sure.

    What about Instincts. Stat Modifier = number of Instincts. Maybe you could tie it to a specific situation and your gut reaction, relating specifically to the stat. An Instinct could be something like “Shield: Negate damage from an incoming attack but your shield is destroyed. Instinct is now disabled until you obtain another Shield.” or “Dodge: Defy Danger a second time on a 6- or 7-9 result once per session.”

    Instincts could be tied to Modifiers as well as Jeremy’s solutions (still need something for DEX). This would make them much more prominent as part of the system. But do Instincts seem cool?

  12. Marques Jordan in my experience, the reason Ability Modifiers exist is because using them with abilities in play make more sense, thus having ability scores that sit unused are, in essence, doing it just because you can, having them in the game has no clear gain or advantage (discounting HP, which is a quick fix)

    The problem here lies in wanting to staple on legacy mechanics from B/X “just because” when DW is a fundamentally different game. Like putting bike tires on a tank.

    Nothing wrong with B/X, it’s a lot of fun. but if that’s what you want, you should play it. DW has a great many nods to the old basic D&D, but “under the hood” it is extremely different. And operates under completely different and possibly incompatible assumptions.

  13. Jay Vee ‘s got the right idea. I think the system should be kept as simple as possible at all times. In my experience, more mechanics means more places where the player has to compromise on making the character they want in the name of mechanical power. If they don’t want to compromise, they’ll be less capable than anyone who did. It’s the problem of system mastery!

  14. Marques Jordan for the Proficiency slots idea, you would literally have as many as your Intelligence score (not modifier, score).  That’s the whole point, right? Find something relevant for each of the base stats to affect in the game.

    Again, I’m not saying one should do this.  I’d be much more likely to get rid of the base stats as use the modifiers.  The only thing I’d really miss about the base scores are the interesting decisions you have to make when levelling up.  (Do I increase my 15 to a 16 and get another +2 stat? Or my 16 to a 17 so that next level I can get my core stat up to 18?)  Even that you could work around.

    Still, I always like a clever idea.  If anyone can come up with a useful way to apply the base value of Wisdom or Dexterity, I’d love to hear it.

  15. Jay Vee, Burk Diggler, and Jeremy Strandberg you all make very good points. I think I am far more excited about the possibilities the Stat Modifiers present than the stats themselves.

    I think I approach DW very differently than just about everybody else here. I played B/X D&D and I loved it, but only after five pages of house rules. In general I come from a tool kit background where I’m buying books to grab and implement every cool idea that I come across. I enjoy bending the system to suit the exact needs of the current game I have in mind.

    When I played B/X I had a lot of gripes, especially when considering my primary player (my wife). I didn’t like that on a miss you simply missed. I wanted there to be more. When I left B/X I was looking for a narrative based game to create a more cinematic style game, where rolls represented a measure of success versus a black and white Yes/No ruling. DW was perfect.

    But here I am with DW and I am treating it as a foundation for the game I want to run. I’m in the middle of developing a custom experience system, a currency system, a very long list of equipment, I’m throwing out Adventuring Gear, removing marking XP on a 6-, writing up my own monster manual to codify D&D style/theme monsters vs the free-form approach DW takes, 5 different ways to handle hirelings, developing end game mechanics, introducing a CC approach to professions, greatly expanding the information given at character generation to help define a character before play starts, and now messing with the base stats.

    In the end I will have a game that is superior, in my opinion, to B/X and DW. I love DW, through and through, but it is missing aspects of B/X that I fell in love with. When all is said and done I may have something more akin to a AW Hack than DW, and for me that is A-Okay ^_-

  16. Removing the pointless scores and keeping just the useful mods is the correct path. I have been doing that for a long time and it has been a big hit, simplified the game, and made the game rules more grokable for new players.

  17. Tim Franzke is right. I stopped using Defy Danger as a Skill / Ability Check and just made GM Moves instead. Works much better IMO.

    As for what to use Intelligence, Wisdom, Strength and Dexterity for, I’m not sure. The Load = Strength idea seems good, even though it takes something away from the high load classes. They could get a +1 or +2 maybe.

  18. Right now i see a lot of discussion about a problem that isn’t really there. 

    The full stat scores are there to pay homage but also to give you something to increase every level. Even if that was only half the increase you needed for a better +, it still feels good. It also allows you to have some stats you only need to spend one stat increase on to improve them while still stopping you from getting all stats to +3. 

    Other things can easily be be adressed with custom moves like Charisma does for buying things. 

    Finding the correct clue in the biggest library in the world takes 30-Intelligence days. (of course you have to make these days mean something in the fiction as a GM). 


  19. I’m inclined to agree with Tim Franzke. As GM’s we like to tinker and DW is an easy system to customize. But I think you can waste a lot of time messing around with things that don’t really need changed. I think the time is better spent creating exciting new moves, creatures, and compendium classes.

    The OP mentioned having the stats make more impact in the game. I don’t think it’s really necessary to have a set of six numbers make impact, it’s the fiction that makes the impact. Most of us are coming to DW from systems where the “math” makes the impact but that just isn’t the case here. 

  20. The question isn’t whether making modifications is necessary. I don’t think anybody will dispute that base modifiers work just fine. The question is, can you make them better, more important, or pack a greater fictional punch? I always liked the idea that Stats represent your capability as a person. I’ve always tried to role play based on my stats faithfully, just like I would alignment or bonds.

    The reason I like proficiencies so much is because the Stats once again have meaning. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to introduce new elements that help further define who your character is fictionally. When I look at Stats I see them as untapped design space. This is one of the big reasons I am trying to find ways to give them greater depth, meaning, and representation.

    Kasper Brohus Allerslev could you elaborate on the topic of using Defy Danger as a Skill/Ability Check? I don’t follow. I assume you mean it is a skill people tend to use when the action doesn’t clearly fall under another basic move. But how does using GM moves avoid this?

  21. Example from one of our games: 

    Me: “I throw a rock over there to distract one of the guards so that we can attack the other” 

    Kasper: is a bit confused because his instincts tell him i should be rolling for that. After some suggestions we settle on me rolling Defy Danger. The Danger being that one of the guards spot me as i do that. 


    Me: “I throw a rock over there to distract one of the guards so that we can attack the other” 

    Kasper [being a fan of the character]”Yeah sure, you pick up a rock and throw it in the buches over there, creating some noise. One of the goblins picks up his spear and trots over to the green.

    [Put someone in a spot]: But he doesn’t seem to be that interested in what is there, if you want to move on the other guard you have to do it fast. What do you do?  

  22. It simply avoids these moments where you (because of training from other RPGs or narrative instinct) think someone should be rolling something but you can’t figure out what and so you just decide to let them roll Defy Danger although there are not defying any danger right now. 

    Making a GM move instead still shows that something is not easy to do or interesting in some way without having to go for the dice with a weak trigger condition. 

  23. Tim Franzke knocks it out of the park. The stats aren’t there to be a comprehensive list, but to create a void in which extra mechanisms can be added. Sanity points are my go-to example – derived from Wisdom, perhaps. Mana points derived from Intelligence? Etc.

  24. One way to use the stats is to treat it as a resource for monsters to deplete. Adam Koebel mentions sanity points. What about a mind flayer that does 1d6 intelligence damage or a wight that does 1d8 strength damage? Adjust the modifier accordingly. Your wizard may go from +3 to cast a spell to -1. Your fighter may become paralized. Your cleric may become a gibbering fool. I also have been tinkering with a magician that has mana based on intelligence, but there are so many magic class hacks floating about I have not pusued it too much.

    The last thing DW needs is a skills list. I believe class moves describe the skills a character has much more elegantly and fun.

  25. I too would avoid a Skill List of any sort. The only thing that is likely to do is have the table focused on more dice rolling when you should be focused on the narration. I find it pretty easy to determine what kinds of things any given character might be good at anyway.

    Besides as it stands asking a player why they know about a certain thing provides all sort of potential. Something that tends to vanish if your skill is just a word and a number on a character sheet.

  26. Wynand Louw that is an awesome approach. I don’t think I would use it too often, much like debilities, but it would be a fantastic way to make a villain or monster more scary/tough. Fantastic idea!

    Wynand Louw & John Lewis what do you mean by skills list? Even if I decide to leave the stats alone, I think I will still add languages  known based on the INT modifier. Seems harmless and my players will dig it.

    While this conversation may not have been helpful to anybody but me, I thank you all for your feedback. I’ve got a few things to mull over and a couple of new things to add to my GM’s toolbox (Wynand & Jeremy’s suggestions). Unfortunately, I can’t imagine Sanity would come up much in a DW-style fantasy game.

  27. Tim Franzke

    You are right, if they last too long.

    But reducing a PC to an idiot during one encounter should be huge fun. As would weakening the fighter to a point where he cannot even  lift his sword. I would not let it last longer than the encounter, though. 

    This is my gut feeling. I have never played it like that in DW, but I seem to remember it has happened in Pathfinder Society that characters lost Strength etc. (I don’t pay much attention in Pathfinder, I’m usually just there for the socializing)

  28. Marques Jordan In Pathfinder (and I suppose D&D) you have a list of skills with modifiers; Swimming Climbing, Hopping, Skipping, Farting etc. The higher the modifier to the d20 roll the better you are at it. I think there are about 15 or so skills on the list. The one that is rolled most is Perception. 

  29. I think he knows what a skill list is. It was more about what this would mean in a DW context. 

    And reducing someone to low str. should be done in the fiction. Not by a “you take a d6 str damage”. Because having either 18 or 13 Strengh doesn’t really mean anything outside of moves. Yes, your propabilities are worse but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up your sword now.  

    You can only do that by doing things in the fiction. Doing both at once is a terrible thing to do to a player. 

    There is a Captain America comic where he gets de-supersoldiered by some stuff. He is now weak frail Steve Rogers again. But he has years and years of training and combat exeprience and just pounds some super-soldier guys into the ground because he is just that good. That what happens if you make a character fictionally weak but still let them keep their awesome STR score to H&S with. 

    Way more fun then crippling them all together. 

  30. I’d say reducing a +3 on Hack and Slash to -2 is fictionally highly significant…

    If it lasted it would be terrible. If it lasted only for the one encounter I believe it could be fun. 

    When would you be paralysed so you can’t lift your sword? (To fight! Not to drag along.) Probably at -4 or so? It also depends on how big your sword is, of course. 

  31. I’m familiar with what a Skill List is. I just wasn’t sure what this meant in a DW context since, through fiction, a PC is capable of attempting pretty much anything.

    Like I said previously, I don’t think I would use this approach to lowering stats very often. I would definitely only have it last the encounter or until the person rested, but the effect (to me) is a representation to something significant that happens in the fiction.It probably isn’t physical and is simply the byproduct of a mental state (like fear or temporary sanity loss). When it is physical I think a debility makes far more sense.

    I would use it to heighten the tension in a situation or to stack the deck in an NPCs favor. No matter what if this occurs it is a direct result of something happening in the fiction. I don’t believe DW is capable of allowing a mechanical effect that isn’t baked up in the fiction. You could do it but it would be wrong to such a degree that my DW materials would probably combust on the spot in defiance =P

  32. You mean like reducing him to 0 hitpoints? When a PC rolls Last Breath successfully I treat him as out of the game for the duration of the encounter anyway. PC’s fall asleep due to sleep spells. PC’s are charmed by evil sorcerers. PC’s are seperated from the party and have to sit there as the others fight.

    So it happens all the time that characters a neutralised for the duration of a fight.

    You concern is absolutely legitimate. But it will depend on how the GM plays it.

    As I said, there is only one way to find out 🙂

  33. If you see that as not being a fan, OK. You could also see it as filling their life with adventure..

    Ibid, Next paragraph:

    Think dangerous

    Everything in the world is a target. You’re thinking like an evil overlord: no single life is worth anything and there is nothing sacrosanct. Everything can be put in danger, everything can be destroyed. Nothing you create is ever protected. Whenever your eye falls on something you’ve created, think how it can be put in danger, fall apart or crumble. The world changes. Without the characters’ intervention, it changes for the worse.

    Also, it would 100% fit in with these moves:

    •  Deal damage

    •  Use up their resources

    •  Turn their move back on them

    As I said It’s an idea.

    Part of the process of getting good ideas is to present ideas to a group of peers and let them shoot it down, and then to (at least try to) defend it.

    The other part is actually testing it, if it survives the first round.  If I playtested it and it sucks, I’ll be the first to chuck it. Knowing of one more way how not to make a lightbulb is one step  closer to success. 🙂

  34. Wynand Louw The thing is that not all ideas needs testing to put them down. This is just another version of arbitrarily making a player unable to participate, or at least make it less fruitful.

    Comparing it with ability damage in D&D/Pathfinder shows poor understanding of the importance of the modifiers in DW in comparison to d20. In d20, there’s no implicit punishment for rolling bad, the default failure result is “nothing happens, action wasted”. In DW, the default is “something happens, and I can assure you that you won’t like it”. This makes a world of difference in severity.

    You keep comparing temporarily lowering abilities to dealing damage, but the fact is that except for established fictional consequences, there’s no inherent consequence for losing HP unless your HP total reaches 0. Losing stat points has an immediate effect, a pretty severe one, and the core game doesn’t supply the players with a way of dealing with it. They can just accept that they will suck until the GM supplies them with a bailout.

    In contrast, d20 has several ways of dealing with ability damage by default; spells, potions, rods, you name it.

  35. My page 164 details When To Make A Move. The second paragraph refers to what constitutes a Soft Move. Is this what you are pointing to? I’m asking because I don’t understand how this could illicit Tim Franzke’s response of “burn”.

    I don’t understand why this is such a problem Kasper Brohus Allerslev. Honestly, how does having your stat scores lowered keep you from participating at all? Can you give me an example?

    In my point of view, it merely forces you to approach the situation from a different perspective. Sure running away or hiding are options but so is taking action via alternate routes. It seems like a cool way to Think Dangerous, Embrace The Fantastic, Begin And End With The Fiction, Reveal An Unwelcome Truth, Deal Damage, Use Up Their Resources, Separate Them, Put Someone In A Spot, and Present A Challenge To One Of The Characters. It is a temporary road block that requires non-linear thinking to deal with appropriately.

  36. Marques Jordan I’m not entirely sure why Tim Franzke wrote “burn”, but I think he just agreed with my post.

    Page 164 should explain a subset of the principles. The paragraph I referred to was on the principle be a fan of the characters.

    As for how it keeps you from participating; well, it doesn’t. It would be more correct to say that it keeps you from influencing the game, at least with moves.

    If I have made a character, I want to play to that characters strengths. It is not fun to be forced to play a character differently. If I am the least sneakiest Fighter in the world, I won’t try to sneak into a place, I want to fight my way in. If that is not possible (perhaps due to the sheer amount of enemies), then I will find another way to take advantage my high Strength score.

    By smashing my characters Strength, that isn’t even possible. No matter what I do, playing to my characters strengths is now my worst option. I do not mind being put in situations where another character might outperform mine, but by lowering my strength, my character will most likely be outperformed in anything, by anyone.

    Furthermore, rolling with my low stats is now so risky that the game will now be more about finding ways to do things without rolling, because rolling dice have now become an unnecessary risk. That is not fun.

    People will use their +1 Dex bonus over their +3 Str bonus when they feel the fictional consequences for using strength overshadows their mechanical advantage of numbers. Even for a +0 Dex Fighter, it is probably safer sneaking through a camp of orcs than relying on his +3 Str to cleave a path through them, as he can’t possibly defeat 50 orc warriors on his own.

    Here’s the kicker though; this is a choice! If you damage the Fighters strength score, sneaking through is almost mandatory. He can either give up or most likely die. Think about it this way; what is the most obvious consequence for rolling a miss while sneaking? Being discovered. And when he is discovered and surrounded, what can he then do? Fight his way out, unless you lowered his strength. Then he just dies, as he is a Fighter and fighting is his only effective way of dealing with tense situation like being surrounded by 20 or so orcs.

    This discussion is extremely flawed by the way. You can asking why I think it’s bad, but the real question would be; what is the merit? We already have debilities. Why introduce something much worse? They are harsh enough.

  37. And arguing that it is okay to break one principle to observe another misses the point with the principles. You should observe all principles at all times. None of them are more important than the others.

  38. Weird, that is on page 162 for me. I think my personal disconnection here has a lot to do with how I GM. I’m trying to emulate the danger filled lives of a classic Moldvay D&D character. I tend to put people in situations where they have to make hard choices. A classic example is presenting two horrible choices to a character and it is up to them to choose the lesser of two evils. But there are always big rewards and payoffs for overcoming these types of challenges if the characters can navigate through them.

    They exist to add drama and tension to a scene, not to punish players for how they are playing. The only hard rule that I have is that death is unlikely as long as you think things out. If you are foolish or throw caution to the wind, expect the world to notice and press its advantage. Your example above would not be possible in one of my games. The way I plan on using this new stat sapping debility is:

    1) It is very temporary.

    2) The situation where it would be used would be rare. It probably happens during an important fight and adds flair to the situation. It makes their opponent even scarier, highlighting how powerful they are, how serious the situation is, and that a plan of action is important to overcome this baddie.

    3) As soon as the fight is over stats go back to normal, no healing required.

    3a) If the character does something or is aided by someone in the fiction that addresses getting rid of this debility, it will be gone. Did your strength just go from 15 to 8? It’s because your shoulder is out of its socket. Pop it back in and everything goes back to normal.

    I completely understand where you are coming from. The possibility that it might add to the fun and my toolbox is exciting. Honestly though, I haven’t playtested this or debilities yet. Once I get a chance to run both I will better understand if this is actually cool or just a needless complication.

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