Finishing the basic RPG rules and conventions we were going to use was surprisingly difficult. This is the meaty side of why one wants to make an RPG and we had an infinite number of influences to look to. We tried several variations on existing systems both from P&P and CRPGs. I tried my hand at coming at it more from scratch and I don't think I have a future career writing P&P sourcebooks. I had been programming around it with lots of GetAttackModifiers() type functions that returned a 0 with the expectation I would eventually settle on something.
The simplest idea is usually the best one in gamedev since there are so many complexities already, but going with a simple system reminiscent of early console RPGs or the earliest editions of D&D felt wrong. A large part of my enjoyment in CRPGs is all the tinkering with character bits and bobs and fairly basic stats and equipment customization wasn't enough.
When I decided to try taking some influence from 4e everything clicked. 4e itself was known to be too "video game" for some P&P fans but obviously those elements benefited me. 4e already has a deck building feel with how its Powers system works and I wanted to expand on that aspect. Our game combined tactical battles with simplified first person exploration and playing 4e sometimes has a similar feel of breezy exploration and detail combat. Some P&P fans complained that exploration and non-combat interactions in 4e felt ancillary to lengthy tactical battles but that's exactly how our game is structured.
In the end we crafted something appropriate to a combat heavy CRPG with deep customization options and build variety, interesting powers for every class, more granularity in combat options than your usual D20 system, and a pinch of deck building in how you arrange your abilities. It all starts with Attributes.
Attributes: Strength, Agility, Constitution, Intellect, Perception, Spirit.
Those look pretty familiar.
Since we are a combat focused game the Charisma stat seemed an obvious one to lose. We also have firearms and more ranged weaponry than your average CRPG and those needed extra handling.
I felt like ranged weaponry needed their own stat instead of being lumped in with a stat that controlled your dodging and speed. Dexterity as a stat has always been a confusing blend so I made it clearer as Agility. It's a stat melee fighters of all types will find useful, but it offers little for ranged focused characters beyond dodging.
Perception is the main stat for ranged weaponry but it also contains the idea of 'insight' represented by Wisdom. It feels right that characters who are perceptive also have intuitive insights different from straight logical thinking.
Spirit occupying Charisma's old place on the Sacred Six attribute list was to also clarify its purpose. Often Charisma in D20 games represents something like a person's raw spirit or force of personality. I don't think Sorcerers were ever supposed to be charming the world into fireballs. Spirit directly represents a person's unexplainable intensity. I had considered using the label Psyche instead but I think Spirit is clearer. Part of that unexplainable quality is their connection to the spirit world and their ability to exercise their will in it.
My tiny tweak to Intelligence as Intellect was just a personal preference of mine to try to make it distinct from Knowledge. The learned/natural distinction is always difficult but it is clear that Strength represents your raw strength and not your trained ability to swing a sword. Intellect is similar.
Some complain that in D20-ish games Attribute allocation is too prescriptive. You absolutely needed X in primary, Y in secondary and anything else just diluted your character. That is less of an issue for us because of a significant change in how Powers (our Abilities) are handled both for damage and hitting. That'll be detailed in the next blog post.