Statistic (role-playing games)

Last updated

A statistic (or stat) in role-playing games is a piece of data that represents a particular aspect of a fictional character. That piece of data is usually a (unitless) integer or, in some cases, a set of dice.

Role-playing game Game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting

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 regarding character development. Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.

Data facts represented for handling

Data is a set of values of subjects with respect to qualitative or quantitative variables.

In mathematics, logic, and philosophy, a property is a characteristic 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 it may be instantiated, and often in more than one thing. It differs from the logical/mathematical concept of class by not having any concept of extensionality, and from the philosophical concept of class in that a property is considered to be distinct from the objects which possess it. Understanding how different individual entities can in some sense have some of the same properties is the basis of the problem of universals. The terms attribute and quality have similar meanings.


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 or Attribute Aspects in Aria ).

<i>Ars Magica</i> Fantasy roleplaying game

Ars Magica is a role-playing game set in 'Mythic Europe' - a historically-grounded version of Europe and the Levant around AD 1200, with the added conceit that conceptions of the world prevalent in folklore and institutions of the High Middle Ages are factual reality. The players' involvement revolves around an organization of magi and their allies and foes both mundane and supernatural. The game was originally developed by Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein-Hagen, with its first edition published in 1987.

Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth roleplaying game

Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth was a role-playing game published by Last Unicorn Games in 1994.

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:

Learning is the process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals, and some machines; there is also evidence for some kind of learning in some plants. Some learning is immediate, induced by a single event, but much skill and knowledge accumulates from repeated experiences. The changes induced by learning often last a lifetime, and it is hard to distinguish learned material that seems to be "lost" from that which cannot be retrieved.

A skill is the ability to carry out a task with determined results often within a given amount of time, energy, or both. Skills can often be divided into domain-general and domain-specific skills. For example, in the domain of work, some general skills would include time management, teamwork and leadership, self-motivation and others, whereas domain-specific skills would be used only for a certain job. Skill usually requires certain environmental stimuli and situations to assess the level of skill being shown and used.

There is no standard nomenclature for statistics; for example, both GURPS and the Storytelling System refer to their statistics as "traits", even though they are treated as attributes and skills.

<i>GURPS</i> role playing game system

The Generic Universal RolePlaying System, or GURPS, is a tabletop role-playing game system designed to allow for play in any game setting. It was created by Steve Jackson Games and first published in 1986 at a time when most such systems were story- or genre-specific.

The Storytelling System is a role-playing game system created by White Wolf, Inc. for the Chronicles of Darkness, a game world with several pen and paper games tied in. The Storytelling System is largely based on the Storyteller System, the rule set used for White Wolf's other, older game setting, the World of Darkness.

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, alignment, character class and race can also be considered statistics.

An experience point is a unit of measurement used in tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) and role-playing video games to quantify a player character's progression through the game. Experience points are generally awarded for the completion of missions, overcoming obstacles and opponents, and for successful role-playing.

In some role-playing games (RPGs), alignment is a categorization of the moral and ethical perspective of the player characters, non-player characters, monsters, and societies in the game. Not all role-playing games have such a system, and some narrativist role-players consider such a restriction on their characters' outlook on life to be overly constraining. However, some regard a concept of alignment to be essential to role-playing, since they regard role-playing as an exploration of the themes of good and evil. A basic distinction can be made between alignment typologies, based on one or more sets of systematic moral categories, and mechanics that either assign characters a degree of adherence to a single set of ethical characteristics or allow players to incorporate a wide range of motivations and personality characteristics into gameplay.

In role-playing games (RPG), a character class is a job or profession commonly used to differentiate the abilities of different game characters. A character class aggregates several abilities and aptitudes, and may also detail aspects of background and social standing, or impose behavior restrictions. Classes may be considered to represent archetypes, or specific careers. RPG systems that employ character classes often subdivide them into levels of accomplishment, to be attained by players during the course of the game. It is common for a character to remain in the same class for its lifetime; although some games allow characters to change class, or attain multiple classes. Some systems eschew the use of classes and levels entirely; others hybridise them with skill-based systems or emulate them with character templates.


Attribute advancement screen in a computer role-playing game. Scourge character creation.png
Attribute advancement screen in a computer role-playing game.


An attribute describes to what extent a character possesses a natural, in-born characteristic 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 or wisdom. Many games also include social characteristics as well, for example a character's natural charisma or physical appearance. 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 , 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 / 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 410 attributes. [1]

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 ), or even ignored altogether (for example, Intelligence and Charisma in a hack and slash adventure). In many games, a small set of primary attributes control a larger number of derived statistics such as Armor Class or magic points.

During character creation, attribute scores are usually determined either randomly (by rolling dice) or by distributing character points. In some games, such as World of Warcraft , 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".

Advantages and disadvantages

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 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, where a player strives to take disadvantages which have little or no tangible effect on play while using the character points gained from those disadvantages to pay for powerful advantages.

Character points

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. As a result, characters were at the same time wildly unbalanced in terms of attributes and heavily constrained in terms of skills. Champions (1981) introduced a points-based system of purchasing attributes and skills as a means of improving game balance and flexibility. These points are known as character points, and it has become a feature of numerous later games, most notably GURPS .

Usually, a player is allotted a number of points for character creation. A character's attributes (such as high intelligence), skills (such as fixing a car or mechanics), or powers (such as flying) can then be bought for a certain number of points. More powerful abilities or a greater degree of power will require more "spending" of character points. Later, character points can be earned and spent to improve attributes or skills, or to buy new skills or powers. In some games, such as Champions, these points are experience points; in others, such as Ars Magica , there is a more complicated relationship between experience points and character points.


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

In many games, powers are binary on-or-off qualities as opposed to attributes and skills which are usually numeric quantities. The main exception to this is superhero RPGs, where superpowers are often treated as a sort of skill. Superpowers may also use the same rating scale as the primary statistics.


A skill represents the learned knowledge and abilities of a character. Skills are known by various names, including proficiencies, abilities, powers, talents and knacks.

During character creation, a player character'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 points. 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 points 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 ), each skill has a specific base attribute to which it is always added; in others (such as Ars Magica ), a skill can be added to different attributes depending on how the skill is being used. Some games (such as Feng Shui ) 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 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). The text-based roleplaying game Avalon: The Legend Lives is noted for being the first text based multi user role-playing game to offer a developed profession and skills system [2] . Choosing a profession then conveyed a bank of general skills and guild specific ones each containing a ladder of skills which could be invested in via lessons earned through on-line play. Initially there were around 30 such skills with approximately 17 abilities in each covering a wide range from Riding, Perception, Thievery or Demonology. As of 2015 Avalon possesses 66 Skills with a staggering 2194 distinct abilities developed over its 26-year tenure.


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", "Squash" and "Oenology". 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 .[ citation needed ] Some systems, such as Castle Falkenstein and HeroQuest , 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 (such as kilograms or metres per second). Derived statistics are often used during combat (e.g. hit points, Armor Class and initiative). 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. In addition, certain in-game methods such as spells or magical items 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:

Only if statistic A has a value of at least x, statistic B may exceed value y. (Where y is often 0 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.

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 mostx, 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 B's value.

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

If statistics A and B have values of x and y, respectively, then the value of statistic C is a function of (x, y).

Derived (or secondary) statistics are discussed elsewhere.

Related Research Articles

Hero System role-playing game system

The Hero System is a generic role-playing game system that was developed from the superhero RPG Champions. After Champions fourth edition was released in 1989, a stripped-down version of its ruleset with no superhero or other genre elements was released as The Hero System Rulesbook in 1990. As a spinoff of Champions, the Hero System is considered to have started with 4th edition, rather than on its own with a 1st edition. However, the first three editions of the game are typically referred to as Champions, rather than the Hero System, as the game for its first three editions was not sold as a universal toolkit, instead largely focusing on superheroes.

<i>Champions</i> (role-playing game) role-playing game

Champions is a role-playing game published by Hero Games designed to simulate and function in a four-color superhero comic book world. It was originally created by George MacDonald and Steve Peterson in collaboration with Rob Bell, Bruce Harlick and Ray Greer.


Fuzion is a generic role-playing game system created by the collaboration of R. Talsorian Games and Hero Games. The rights to Fuzion are jointly held by Mike Pondsmith of R. Talsorian Games, along with Steve Peterson and Ray Greer of Hero Games. Fuzion is a combination of the Interlock System,, and the HERO system. Fuzion is an adaptable system which can be played in any genre and setting imaginable.

Tri-Stat dX

Tri-Stat dX is a generic role-playing game system developed and published by Guardians of Order in 2003. Like other generic role-playing game systems, Tri-Stat dX has adaptable rules that can be applied to many genres and settings.

Savage Worlds generic role playing game

Savage Worlds is a generic role-playing game written by Shane Lacy Hensley and published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. The game emphasizes speed of play and reduced preparation over realism or detail. The game received the 2003 Origin Gamers' Choice Award for best role-playing game.

D6 System

The D6 System is a role-playing game system published by West End Games (WEG) and licensees. While the system is primarily intended for pen-and-paper role-playing games, variations of the system have also been used in live action role-playing games and miniature battle games. The system is named after the 6-sided die, which is used in every roll required by the system.

DC Heroes

DC Heroes is an out-of-print superhero role-playing game set in the DC Universe and published by Mayfair Games. Other than sharing the same licensed setting, DC Heroes is unrelated to the West End Games DC Universe or the more recent Green Ronin Publishing DC Adventures game.

Role-playing game terms words used in a specific sense in the context of role-playing games

Role-playing game terms are words used in a specific sense (terms) in the context of role-playing games. This includes both terms used within RPGs to describe in-game concepts and terms used to describe RPGs. Role-playing games also have specialized slang jargon associated with them.

An attribute is a piece of data that describes to what extent a fictional character in a role-playing game possesses a specific natural, in-born characteristic common to all characters in the game. That piece of data is usually an abstract number or, in some cases, a set of dice. Some games use different terms to refer to an attribute, such as statistic, (primary) characteristic or ability. A number of role-playing games like Fate do not use attributes at all.

In the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, game mechanics and die rolls determine much of what happens. These mechanics include:

Character creation process of defining a game character

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. Games with a more contemporary or narrower setting may limit customization to physical and personality traits.

The Megaversal system, sometimes known as the Palladium system, is a set of mechanics specifically employed in most role-playing games published by Palladium Books, with the exception of Recon. It uses dice for roll-under percentile skill checks, roll-high combat checks and saving throws, and determination of damage sustained in melee encounters by which a character's Hit Points, Structural Damage Capacity (S.D.C.), or Mega-Damage Capacity (M.D.C.) is reduced accordingly.

The End All Be All game system, commonly known as EABA and pronounced "ee-buh", is a role-playing game system from Blacksburg Tactical Research Center (BTRC). It is a generic gaming systems designed to adapt to any imaginary gaming environment. It was created by Greg Porter in 2003. The game cites the Hero System, GURPS and Call of Cthulhu as influences in its development.

The Cortex System is a generic RPG system based on the Sovereign Stone System, and was developed by Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd for the Serenity Role Playing Game. It was subsequently used for their licensed Battlestar Galactica and Supernatural RPGs, and brought out as a stand-alone system in the Cortex System Role Playing Game book. Serenity, using the Cortex System, was the 2005 Origins Award Gamer's Choice Role Playing Game of the Year.

<i>Star Wars Roleplaying Game</i> (Fantasy Flight Games) tabletop board game

The Star Wars Roleplaying Game is a tabletop role-playing game set in the Star Wars universe first published by Fantasy Flight Games in August 2012. It consists of three different standalone games, each one conceived to play a particular type of character:

The Cortex Plus System is a toolkit RPG system that evolved from Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd's Cortex System. It has been used for four published games and one published preview to date, and the design principles are in the Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide, a book of advice in how to create new games using Cortex Plus, and list of new games produced via kickstarter. According to the Hacker's Guide there are three basic 'flavors' of Cortex Plus; Action, Drama, and Heroic.


  1. The RPGnet article A BROAD VIEW ON PRIMARY ATTRIBUTES by Sergio Mascarenhas, 2005-07-08, links to a PDF file with a table of the attributes used in 30 RPG systems. 26 of them have 4–10 attributes, two use 3, and one each has 11 and 12 attributes, with an average of 7 (rounded). About two thirds use an even number of attributes.
  2. Bartle, Richard (2015-12-15). "Legacy Reviews of MUA and MUDS" . Retrieved 2015-12-14.