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Rough Quests


by Sergio Mascarenhas
Oct 14,2005


Editor's Note. Due to a slight email mishap, some Rough Quests columns were run out of order. To clear things up, we will be going back in time a bit and publishing a few ones we missed, then republishing some of the middle bits for clarity, and then continuing on with the new new stuff. Sorry for any confusion.


With last column I finished the analysis of physical attributes in different rpgs and the selection of those attributes for Rough Quests. It's time to move to psychological traits. Once again let's start by standardizing the language used in the different game systems: RQ12_t1.pdf

As you can see, I ordered the games according to how many psychological attributes they have. This signals the first difference between psychological and physical stats: Whether in the latter most games have only one (28%) or two attributes (60%), in the case of psychological stats only six have a single trait, while most have two or three stats, and there is a good number of games with four to seven psy attributes. This has an important consequence: There's a lot more variability on the way the games handle the psychological aspects of the characters than what we have seen about his physical traits. This complicates a lot the standardization effort. Because of that I had to make several compromises, otherwise I would end with a very long list of possible psychological traits. Here are some of those compromises:

The present analysis of psychological attributes in rpgs does not include traits that concern specifically magic, religion,, faith, spiritualism and related domains since these issues will be handled at a latter stage of game design.

In same cases two or more attributes present in a game have been grouped together in order to facilitate the standardization of the terminology (example: The Skyrealms of Jorune traits 'Learn' and 'Intuition' correspond to different aspects of what is covered in the standardized terminology under 'Intellect'). This has been done when the different traits present in the game don't find correspondent in other games.

A single trait present in a game may cover things that are handled by two traits in the standardized terminology. This is specifically mentioned in the list present in the file above (for instance, the Savage Worlds Test Drive attribute 'Spirit' corresponds to the standardized traits 'Determination' and 'Communication').

Sometimes a trait present in a game does not have a close correspondent in my standardized terminology. In those cases it has been fit into the standardized stat that closest corresponds to it. This has been denoted by including the expression '(sort of)' with the standardized trait (it's the case with the Shadow of Yesterday's 'Instinct' attribute, standardized as 'Intuition').

As I said, there's a lot more variety among games on what concerns psychological traits than what we find when we consider physical stats. This means that there is a lot less consensus about what characterizes a creature when we think about his mental and emotional abilities. I suppose this was to be expected. In any case, we may try to put some order into this matter by looking at what the games offer us in terms of psychological stats. It's better to do it by looking at the different games by order of increasing number of psy stats, working on the assumption that less stats means broader concepts. The data has been collected the next file: RQ12_t2.pdf

Before proceeding notice that games with either two or three psychological attributes are the wast majority, accounting for 70% of the games covered in my analysis. Also keep in mind that I'm not defining at the present stage what I mean by each of the standardized attributes, I'm just working with the terms I find in the games and grouping them under a common label. Next column I'll look more in-depth at the substance of those groupings.

Games with one psychological attribute. As it would be expected, most of these games have a single attribute that models all psychological abilities for the character. Nevertheless, there are two games -- Skyrealms of Jorune and the French game Malefices -- that have a single psychological trait that only models intellectual abilities.

Games with two psychological attributes. The most immediate finding is that in almost all of these games one of the two attributes models intellectual capabilities. Intellect, intelligence, reasoning or whatever the game designers opted to call it is widely accepted as a core function of a person's mental life. On the other hand, there's a lot less consensus about the second psychological trait. We find five other mental abilities in the 16 games with two psychological stats (by order of decreasing frequency): Determination, charisma, communication, Intuition (it can come upper in the order if we consider the situations where it is covered by a broad trait) and Mental Health.

Games with three psychological attributes. The most important change is the introduction of a further mental function, Creativity. Once more the intellectual function is ever present. It is followed by (once more, in order of decreasing frequency) Charisma, Determination, Communication, Creativity, Psychological Health and Intuition.

Games with four psychological attributes. All of the four games in this set have both Intellect and Determination stats. Next there are Charisma, Creativity, Communication, and finally Intuition and Psychological health with only a mention.

Games with five psychological attributes. Again, Intellect is ever present but now the same happens for Determination and Communication. Also well represented are Intuition and Charisma.

Wrapping up the analysis of the different game systems. Irrespective of the number of attributes in the game, Intellectual capabilities are a must. Determination is the second most frequent attribute, followed by Charisma and Communication. Much less frequent are Creativity, Intuition and Psychological Health. Of course, it is important at this stage to understand better what these terms mean.

As I mentioned before, next column we will look more closely at our seven standard psychological attributes. Hopefully we will be able to work out those that should be covered in Rough Quests.

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