One of my ongoing goals during development of the Starguild rpg is one of simplification. You can see that in the ability scores used for character generation too.
In the beginning
Way back when I started there were eight ability scores drawn from Runequest, and then there were six aptitudes which were derived from them. Those were the early days of RPGs where complex interlinked components were seen as a good thing. Later when I moved to the OGL I switched to the ‘D&D standard’ six, which remained with me for quite a while before I realised that I wasn’t gaining anything from them, and in fact I was losing something important to me.
When I had strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom and charisma I had three abilities which tied into combat, two mentally based ones and one socially based one. This was quite an uneven distribution which may have worked well for games which revolved around combat, but relegated social interaction to a single tail end ability score. Another problem is that these abilities come with forty years of baggage; how many ways have people interpreted ‘charisma’ anyway?
Time for a new start
So, I decided to strip things down to three abilities, each of which would be used both offensively and defensively in their sphere of operation. Passion, Intellect and Physique. Even the order of listing them is designed to promote the value of social conflict. In addition, I didn’t want to have people get a value in the range 3-18 by dice or some other mechanism and then have to derive the bonuses that they would get for things from that. Why not just use the score as it is?
This incorporates your emotional control and your ability to emotionally control others. This might be manifested as a cool and calculating logic or someone who wears their heart on their sleeve. Someone with a below average passion finds themselves easily swayed emotionally.
It is used for the skills of bluff, coercion, comradeship, craft, disguise, leadership, persuade and style. It helps with social saves and horror saves.
This represents your cleverness, memory, intellectual ability and above all your ability to think clearly under pressure. You might choose for this to be manifested as great wisdom, rapid thinking, methodical care or anything else which portrays intellectual self control. Someone with below average intellect might be forgetful, or gets flustered easily, or is a little dim witted.
It is used for the skills of commerce, intuition, knowledge, medic, programming, sabotage, search and technical. It helps with chase saves and drama saves.
Your physique represents your physical capability and control. This might be because you are strong or swift or agile, you might be tall and powerful or small and wiry and still have a great physique. Someone with below average physique might be clumsy or weak, possibly very overweight and slow. You can choose how you want to describe your ability.
It is used for the skills of aim, athletics, beastmaster, brawl, drive, pilot, sneak and survival. It helps you with stun damage saves and lethal damage saves.
How do I use them?
A character will start with a base of 0 in each ability. At creation points can be shuffled around between these on a one for one basis. Each character also gets a ‘talent’ which may give a bonus to one or two ability scores. Whenever a character gains a level, one of the advances available is to increase one of their ability scores by +1. An ability score can never be more than +5 or less than -5.
The ability score is added to all skill checks which are related to that ability. It is added to the difficulty needed to resist any conflict action you take associated with that ability. It is also added to any saving throw you make to resist conflict which is tied to that ability.