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Rough Quests


by Sergio Mascarenhas
Aug 26,2005



In the past columns we have been looking at the way rpgs handle primary attributes. We standardized their terminology and subdivided the attributes into two sets, physical and psychological. Next we further broke up physical into two fields, Physique and Coordination. Last column we dealt with Phsyique, now it is time to handle Coordination: RQ11_t1.pdf

The first thing to notice in the above PDF is that the majority of games, 65% of them, does not sub-divide Coordination, instead they have a single stat to represent it. When it is broken up there are two major aspects that are considered: Agility and Dexterity. Besides these some games account in separate for speed. In fact, there are two major approaches to Coordination: The dominant where it is the core stat to represent physical dynamics (it is present in 32 games, 74% of the total); and the marginal approach where Coordination is sub-divided into Agility and Dexterity (11 games, 26% of the total).

Speed or no Speed?

Speed appears as the odd factor in the two approaches to Coordination. It is used as either an independent function of Coordination, or as an independent function of Agility plus Dexterity.

Personaly I prefer to avoid a Speed stat all-together. It's usage is too narrow, and it can be incorporated easily into Agility (or Coordination). I really don't see the advantage of keeping it separate. There will be no Speed trait in Rough Quests.

Coordination vs. Agility plus Dexterity.

We have seen that most games cover all motor abilities with a single stat, Coordination according to my standardized terminology. On the other hand, some break it up into agility plus dexterity. Which option should I retain?

My first idea was to follow the standard approach, both because it is simpler in gamist terms and because it is not that much irrealist. Let's start with the latter. Pre-modern fantasy is about worlds were technology is not too sofisticated and where craft specialization has not been taken too far, so extreme cases of applied dexterity are rare and exceptional. On the other hand, most people have to do a lot of exercise, so the average person has a reasonable level of agility. Finally, with its emphasis on combat and physical action fantasy has a lot of situations where characters combine agility and dexteriry in a single activity. In gamist terms keeping agility and dexterity together simplifies the game system while breaking it up into two stats creates problems of re-combination when the action involves both not that uncommon as I just said. So far the argument seems to drive things in the sense of Coordination instead of Agility plus Dexterity. On the other hand...

Fantasy worlds have a lot more variety than our real world in terms of possible combinations of agility / dexterity. In the real world dexterity is almost restricted to a single species, humans. Yes, there are many other species with a limited ability to manipulate things, but that ability is without compare to what we have in our minds when we design rpgs, the human standard. Contrary to that, fantasy has plenty of different species that have high dexterity, species that may have huge differences among themselves in terms of agility. Besides, there's plenty of interaction between humans and creatures that have agility but lack any meaningful level of dexterity like animals, dangerous or not. This is an important driver for the separation of the two attributes.

Furthermore, when we consider the different core roles presented earlier in this series of columns we see right away that they have different requirements in terms of agility and dexterity: The thief needs high agility and high dexterity; the fighter calls for high agility even if with run-of-the-mill dexterity; the crafter needs high dex but can live with low agility; the communicator relies mostly on his psychological abilities, but he may have a sizable agility for defensive purposes; the scholar is usually known for his lack of coordination abilities; the magic user may or may not have high coordination abilities, depending on implementation (the standard Wizard tends to lack agility but may have some dexterity while the standard priest may have a good deal of agility with unremarkable dexterity, the Shaolin type of monk may be high on both, while other magic users may be low on the two)(1). That's another good reason to separate both.

A final reason for me to keep Agility and Dexterity as independent stats is strictly personal: I am a simetry wore. I love things to be tightly presented and to be even and balanced. If I have two stats for Physique, I'm emotionaly driven to search for the option that provides two for Coordination. Since games are done as much with careful thinking as they are with passion, this is a reason as good as any other to break up Coordination.

That's it, we know by now which are the primary Physical attributes to be found in Rough Quests: Size, Vitality, Agility and Dexterity. We also know that I will have to find simple and elegant ways to combine these when the situation brings several of them together. But that's for another occasion.


(1) You will notice that I mention six core roles instead of five, contrary to what I proposed in the column where I discussed functional roles. What happens is that I divided the previous iteration of scholar into two roles, crafter and scholar. (As the design of Rough Quests progresses I may review things I presented before. Somewhere down the line I'll collect these changes and produce a special feature to present the same.)

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What do you think?

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