Statistic (role-playing games)

# Statistic (role-playing games)

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A statistic in role-playing game
Role-playing game
A role-playing game is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting, or through a process of structured decision-making or character development...

s is a piece of data
Data
The term data refers to qualitative or quantitative attributes of a variable or set of variables. Data are typically the results of measurements and can be the basis of graphs, images, or observations of a set of variables. Data are often viewed as the lowest level of abstraction from which...

which represents a particular aspect
Property (philosophy)
In modern philosophy, logic, and mathematics a property is an attribute of an object; a red object is said to have the property of redness. The property may be considered a form of object in its own right, able to possess other properties. A property however differs from individual objects in that...

of a fictional character
Fictional character
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

. That piece of data is usually a (unit
Units of measurement
A unit of measurement is a definite magnitude of a physical quantity, defined and adopted by convention and/or by law, that is used as a standard for measurement of the same physical quantity. Any other value of the physical quantity can be expressed as a simple multiple of the unit of...

less) integer
Integer
The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

or, in some cases, a set of dice
Dice pool
In some role-playing game systems, the dice pool is the number of dice that a player is allowed to roll when attempting to perform a certain action.-Mechanics:In most RPG systems, most non-trivial actions require dice rolls...

.

For some types of statistics, this value may be accompanied with a descriptive adjective, sometimes called a specialisation or aspect, that either describes how the character developed that particular score or an affinity for a particular use of that statistic (like Specialisations in Ars Magica
Ars Magica
Ars Magica is a role-playing game set in Mythic Europe, a quasi-historical version of Europe around AD 1200 with added fantastical elements. The game revolves around wizards and their allies...

or Attribute Aspects in Aria
Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth
Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth was a role-playing game published by Last Unicorn Games in 1994. Unlike many other role-playing games which centered on individual characters in a pre-set game world, Aria was intended to facilitate the creation of gameworlds, complete with cultures, histories, and...

).

Most games divide their statistics into several categories. The set of categories actually used in a game system, as well as the precise statistics within each category, vary greatly. The most often used types of statistic include:
• Attributes describe to what extent a character possesses natural, in-born characteristics common to all characters.
• Advantages and disadvantages are useful or problematic characteristics that are not common to all characters.
• Powers represent unique or special qualities of the character. In game terms, these often grant the character the potential to gain or develop certain advantages or to learn and use certain skills.
• Skills represent a character's learned
Learning
Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.Human learning...

abilities
Skill
A skill is the learned capacity to carry out pre-determined results often with the minimum outlay of time, energy, or both. Skills can often be divided into domain-general and domain-specific skills...

in predefined areas.
• Traits are broad areas of expertise, similar to skills, but with a broader and usually more loosely defined scope, in areas freely chosen by the player.

There is no standard nomenclature for statistics; for example, both GURPS
GURPS
The Generic Universal RolePlaying System, or GURPS, is a tabletop role-playing game system designed to allow for play in any game setting...

and the Storytelling System
Storytelling System
The Storytelling System, formerly Storyteller System, is a role-playing game system created by White Wolf, Inc. in 1991 that premiered in Vampire: The Masquerade, a part of the World of Darkness series.-Storyteller System:...

refer to their statistics as "traits", even though they are treated as attributes and skills.

Many games make use of derived statistics whose values depend on other statistics, which are known as primary or basic statistics. Game-specific concepts such as experience levels
Experience point
An experience point is a unit of measurement used in many role-playing games and role-playing video games to quantify a player character's progression through the game...

, alignment
Alignment (role-playing games)
In some role-playing games, alignment is a categorisation of the moral and ethical perspective of the player characters, non-player characters, monsters, and societies in the game....

, character class
Character class
In role-playing games, a common method of arbitrating the capabilities of different game characters is to assign each one to a character class. A character class aggregates several abilities and aptitudes, and may also sometimes detail aspects of background and social standing or impose behaviour...

and race can also be considered statistics.

### Attributes

An attribute describes to what extent a character possesses a natural, in-born characteristic
Property (philosophy)
In modern philosophy, logic, and mathematics a property is an attribute of an object; a red object is said to have the property of redness. The property may be considered a form of object in its own right, able to possess other properties. A property however differs from individual objects in that...

common to all characters in the game. Attributes are also called statistics, characteristics or abilities.

Most RPGs use attributes to describe characters’ physical and mental characteristics, for example their strength
Physical strength
Physical strength is the ability of a person or animal to exert force on physical objects using muscles. Increasing physical strength is the goal of strength training.-Overview:...

or wisdom
Wisdom
Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and...

. Many games also include social characteristics as well, for example a character's natural charisma
Charisma
The term charisma has two senses: 1) compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, 2) a divinely conferred power or talent. For some theological usages the term is rendered charism, with a meaning the same as sense 2...

or physical appearance
Human physical appearance
Human physical appearance refers to the outward phenotype or look of human beings. There are infinite variations in human phenotypes, though society reduces the variability to distinct categories...

. They often influence the chance to succeed in a skill or other tests by addition to a die roll or by determining the number of dice to be thrown. As a consequence, usually a higher number is better, and ranges can be as small as 1–5 (for numbers of dice) or as great as 1–100 (when adding to results of percentile dice). In some games, attributes represent linearly increasing ability (e.g. in Tunnels and Trolls
Tunnels and Trolls
Tunnels & Trolls is a fantasy role-playing game designed by Ken St. Andre and first published in 1975 by Flying Buffalo. The second modern role-playing game published, it was written by Ken St...

, where a character can lift 10 lbs per point of Strength) whereas in others a small increase can represent a major gain in ability (e.g. in the DC Heroes
DC Heroes
DC Heroes is an out-of-print superhero role-playing game set in the DC Universe, published by Mayfair Games. Other than sharing the same licensed setting, DC Heroes is unrelated to the West End Games DC Universe....

/Blood of Heroes system, where +1 to Strength doubles a character's lifting capacity).
Some games work with only a few broad attributes (such as Physical or Mental), while others have a greater number of more specific ones. Most games have about 4–10 attributes.

Most games try to give all attributes about the same usefulness to a character. Therefore, certain characteristics might be merged (such as merging a Charisma-type and a Willpower-type attribute into a single Personality attribute), or split into more attributes (such as splitting physical "Comeliness" from Charisma in the original Unearthed Arcana
Unearthed Arcana
Unearthed Arcana is the title shared by two hardback books published for different editions of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game...

), or even ignored altogether (for example, Intelligence and Charisma in a hack and slash
Hack and slash
Hack and slash or hack and slay, abbreviated H&S or HnS, refers to a type of gameplay that emphasizes combat. "Hack and slash" was originally used to describe an aspect of pen-and-paper role-playing games , carrying over from there to MUDs, MMORPGs, and video games in general...

adventure). In many games, a small set of primary attributes control a larger number of derived statistics such as Armor Class
Armor class
In some role-playing games, armor class is a derived statistic that indicates how difficult it is to land a successful blow on a character with an attack...

or magic point
Magic point
Magic points are units of magical power that are used in many role-playing, computer role-playing and similar games as an expendable resource that is needed to pay for magic spells and other abilities, such as special attacks...

s.
During character creation
Character creation
Character creation is the process of defining a game character or other character. Typically, a character's individual strengths and weaknesses are represented by a set of statistics. Games with a largely fictional setting may include traits such as race and class...

, attribute scores are usually determined either randomly (by rolling dice
Dice
A die is a small throwable object with multiple resting positions, used for generating random numbers...

) or by distributing character point
Character point
Character points are abstract units used in some role-playing games during character creation and development.Early role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons assigned random values to a player character's attributes, while allowing each character a fixed number of skills...

s. In some games, such as World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game by Blizzard Entertainment. It is the fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe, which was first introduced by Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994...

, the base attribute scores are determined by the character’s race and class (however the vast majority of stat points will be obtained through end-game gear/equipment). Because they represent common, in-born characteristics and not learned capabilities (as skills do), in many games they are fixed for the duration of the game. However, in some games they can be increased by spending experience points gained during the game, or as part of the process of "levelling up".

An advantage is a physical, social, intellectual, or other enhancement to a character. In contrast, a disadvantage is an adverse effect. Advantages are also known as virtues, merits or edges and disadvantages as flaws or hindrances, or by the abbreviation "disads".

Many games encourage or even force players to take disadvantages for their characters in order to balance
Game balance
Game balance is a concept in game design describing fairness or balance of power in a game between multiple players or strategic options. Each team or person would be equally matched in every aspect.- Overview :...

their advantages or other "positive" statistics. Disadvantages also add flavor to a character that can't be obtained solely by a list of positive traits. Advantages and disadvantages often have a thematic element to them. They often provide a direct relationship between how someone wants to role-play their character and a tangible "in-game" enhancement to skill or ability rolls.

Systems of advantages and disadvantages are often criticized for allowing or even encouraging min-maxing
Min-maxing
Min-maxing is the practice of playing a role-playing game, wargame or video game with the intent of creating the "best" character by means of minimizing undesired or unimportant traits and maximizing desired ones. This is usually accomplished by improving one specific trait or ability by...

, where a player strives to take disadvantages which have little or no tangible effect on play while using the character point
Character point
Character points are abstract units used in some role-playing games during character creation and development.Early role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons assigned random values to a player character's attributes, while allowing each character a fixed number of skills...

### Powers

A power represents a unique or special quality of a character.

In many games, powers are binary on-or-off
Boolean datatype
In computer science, the Boolean or logical data type is a data type, having two values , intended to represent the truth values of logic and Boolean algebra...

qualities as opposed to attributes and skills which are usually numeric quantities. The main exception to this is superhero
Superhero
A superhero is a type of stock character, possessing "extraordinary or superhuman powers", dedicated to protecting the public. Since the debut of the prototypical superhero Superman in 1938, stories of superheroes — ranging from brief episodic adventures to continuing years-long sagas —...

RPGs, where superpowers
Superpower (ability)
Superpower is a popular culture term for a fictional superhuman ability. When a character possesses multiple such abilities, the terms super powers or simply powers are used...

are often treated as a sort of skill. Superpowers may also use the same rating scale as the primary statistics.

### Skills

A skill represents the learned
Learning
Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.Human learning...

knowledge
Knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

and abilities
Skill
A skill is the learned capacity to carry out pre-determined results often with the minimum outlay of time, energy, or both. Skills can often be divided into domain-general and domain-specific skills...

of a character. Skills are known by various names, including proficiencies, abilities, talents and knacks.

During character creation
Character creation
Character creation is the process of defining a game character or other character. Typically, a character's individual strengths and weaknesses are represented by a set of statistics. Games with a largely fictional setting may include traits such as race and class...

, a player character
Player character
A player character or playable character is a character in a video game or role playing game who is controlled or controllable by a player, and is typically a protagonist of the story told in the course of the game. A player character is a persona of the player who controls it. Player characters...

's skills are generally chosen from a long list. A character may have a fixed number of starting skills, or they may be paid for using character point
Character point
Character points are abstract units used in some role-playing games during character creation and development.Early role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons assigned random values to a player character's attributes, while allowing each character a fixed number of skills...

s. In contrast to attributes, very few games fix a player's skills at the start of the game, instead allowing players to increase them by spending experience point
Experience point
An experience point is a unit of measurement used in many role-playing games and role-playing video games to quantify a player character's progression through the game...

s or during "levelling up". Since some skills are likely to be more useful than others, different skills often have different costs.

Skills usually influence a character's chance to succeed by adding to the relevant attribute. In some games (such as GURPS
GURPS
The Generic Universal RolePlaying System, or GURPS, is a tabletop role-playing game system designed to allow for play in any game setting...

), each skill has a specific base attribute to which it is always added; in others (such as Ars Magica
Ars Magica
Ars Magica is a role-playing game set in Mythic Europe, a quasi-historical version of Europe around AD 1200 with added fantastical elements. The game revolves around wizards and their allies...

), a skill can be added to different attributes depending on how the skill is being used. Some games (such as Feng Shui
Feng Shui (role-playing game)
Feng Shui is a martial arts-themed role-playing game, designed by Robin Laws, published first by Daedalus Entertainment and now by Atlas Games. The game shares its setting with the collectible card game Shadowfist. The system is simple, with most detail being in the game's combat system. Combat...

) add the base attribute to the skill at character creation time; after that, it is independent of the attribute and is used instead of the attribute rather than adding to it. Most games have a fixed penalty for attempting a task without a relevant skill; older editions of Shadowrun
Shadowrun is a role-playing game set in a near-future fictional universe in which cybernetics, magic and fantasy creatures co-exist. It combines genres of cyberpunk, urban fantasy and crime, with occasional elements of conspiracy fiction, horror, and detective fiction.The original game has spawned...

gave a complex network of penalties for using similar skills (such as attempting to pick an electronic lock by using the Computer skill instead of the Electronics skill).

### Traits

A trait represents a broad area of expertise of a character.

Traits are rarely drawn from a predetermined list; rather, the player chooses some description during character generation. For example, a squash-playing history professor with a knowledge of fine wines might have the traits "History
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

", "Squash" and "Oenology
Oenology
Oenology,[p] œnology , or enology is the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking except vine-growing and grape-harvesting, which is a subfield called viticulture. “Viticulture & oenology” is a common designation for training programmes and research centres that include both the...

". In terms of a more fine-grained system of statistics, a single trait would often be represented by a group of skills, one or more advantages and attributes, or a combination thereof.

The first major role-playing game to use traits was Over the Edge
Over the Edge (role-playing game)
Over the Edge is a surreal role-playing game of secrets and conspiracies, taking place on the mysterious Island of Al Amarja. It was created by Jonathan Tweet with Robin Laws, and published by Atlas Games...

. Some systems, such as Castle Falkenstein
Castle Falkenstein (role-playing game)
Castle Falkenstein is a steampunk-themed fantasy role-playing game designed by Mike Pondsmith and originally published by R. Talsorian Games. A GURPS version and several supplements were later published by Steve Jackson Games. The game is named for a legendary unbuilt castle in the Bavarian Alps...

and HeroQuest
HeroQuest (role-playing game)

, use traits as the only type of statistic, although they may use some other term for them, such as abilities.

### Derived statistics

Many games make use of derived statistics: statistics whose values are determined only by the values of other, "basic" statistics. They often represent a single capability of the character such as the weight a character can lift, or the speed at which they can move. Some are unitless numbers, but often they use real-world units of measurement
Units of measurement
A unit of measurement is a definite magnitude of a physical quantity, defined and adopted by convention and/or by law, that is used as a standard for measurement of the same physical quantity. Any other value of the physical quantity can be expressed as a simple multiple of the unit of...

(such as kilogram
Kilogram
The kilogram or kilogramme , also known as the kilo, is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units and is defined as being equal to the mass of the International Prototype Kilogram , which is almost exactly equal to the mass of one liter of water...

s or metres per second
Metre per second
Metre per second is an SI derived unit of both speed and velocity , defined by distance in metres divided by time in seconds....

). Derived statistics are often used during combat (e.g. hit points, Armor Class
Armor class
In some role-playing games, armor class is a derived statistic that indicates how difficult it is to land a successful blow on a character with an attack...

and initiative
Initiative (role-playing games)
In role-playing games and some table-top wargames, a character's initiative is a statistic which determines the order in which player characters take actions, especially during combat or other forms of conflict resolution....

). Basic and derived statistics are also called primary and secondary statistics, respectively.

In games which use such concepts, derived statistics are often modified by the character's race and class
Character class
In role-playing games, a common method of arbitrating the capabilities of different game characters is to assign each one to a character class. A character class aggregates several abilities and aptitudes, and may also sometimes detail aspects of background and social standing or impose behaviour...

. In addition, certain in-game methods such as spells or magical items
Magic (gaming)
Some role-playing games or game systems can include a set of rules that are used to portray magic in the paranormal sense. These rules simulate the effects that magic would have within the game context, according to how the game designer intended the magic to be portrayed...

might raise or lower these statistics temporarily.

## Interdependencies between statistics

Some games define various interdependencies between statistics of different categories, as well as within categories. The most common are:

Prerequisite : Only if statistic A has a value of at least x, statistic B may exceed value y. (Where y is often 0
0 (number)
0 is both a numberand the numerical digit used to represent that number in numerals.It fulfills a central role in mathematics as the additive identity of the integers, real numbers, and many other algebraic structures. As a digit, 0 is used as a placeholder in place value systems...

or none.)

For example, a character class may require certain minimum attribute scores, or a spell may require a minimal level of magical talent. Learning some esoteric skill often requires knowledge of another one at an “expert” level or possession of a certain advantage: In GURPS Martial Arts, for example, “cinematic” or “mystical” martial arts abilities require a special advantage, Trained by a Master.

Limitation : If statistic A has a value of at least x, then statistic B cannot exceed value y.

This is the opposite of prerequisite. (Only if statistic A has a value of at most x, statistic B may exceed value y.) For example, a character class may be disallowed for certain races, or one of the game effects of a disadvantage (say, Unfit), could be to limit a certain attribute (Constitution or Health in the example) to a certain maximum value (no more than average).

Bonus or base value : If statistic A has a value of x, then the value of statistic B is increased by (or starts at) y. The term base value is preferred if y = x or if y is large compared to Bs value.

Higher scores in an attribute often grant bonuses to a group of skills.

Derivation: If statistics A and B have values of x and y, respectively, then the value of statistic C is a function
Function (mathematics)
In mathematics, a function associates one quantity, the argument of the function, also known as the input, with another quantity, the value of the function, also known as the output. A function assigns exactly one output to each input. The argument and the value may be real numbers, but they can...

of (x, y).

Derived (or secondary) statistics are discussed elsewhere.