Attribute (role-playing games)

Attribute (role-playing games)

An attribute is a piece of data (a “statistic”) 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.

The nature of attributes

Most RPGs use attributes to describe characters’ physical and mental characteristics, for example their strength or wisdom. They often influence the chance to succeed in 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).

Some games work with only a few attributes (such as “Physical” or “Mental”), while others go into more detail. Having too many attributes is considered to be a sign of undue complexity in a gameFact|date=June 2007; most games have about 4–10 of them. 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 out 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.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 leveling up.

Common attribute names

Attributes are commonly referred to by their first two or three initials.

;Strength " Body, Might, Brawl, ...":A measure of how physically strong a character is. Strength often controls the maximum weight the character can carry, melee attack and/or damage, and sometimes hit points. Armor and weapons might also have a Strength requirement.;Constitution "aka Stamina, Endurance, Vitality, ...":A measure of how resilient a character is. Constitution often influences hit points, resistances for special types of damage (poisons, illness, heat etc.) and fatigue. Many games combine Constitution and Strength.;Dexterity "aka Agility, Reflexes, Speed, ...":A measure of how agile a character is. Dexterity controls attack and movement speed and accuracy, as well as the difficulty of an opponent's attack (see Armor Class).;Intelligence "aka Intellect, Mind, Brains, Knowledge, ...:A measure of a character's problem-solving ability. Intelligence often controls a character's ability to comprehend foreign languages and their skill in magic. In some cases, intelligence controls how many skill points the character gets at "level up". In some games, it controls the rate at which experience points are earned, or the amount needed to level up.;Charisma "aka Presence, Charm, Social, ...:A measure of a character's social skills, and sometimes their physical appearance. Charisma generally influences prices while trading, and NPC reactions.;Wisdom "aka Spirit, Psyche, Sense, ...":A measure of a character's common sense and/or spirituality. Wisdom often controls a character's ability to cast certain spells, communicate to mystical entities, or hear something in the distance.;Willpower "aka Sanity, Personality, Ego, ...":A measure of the character's mental resistance (against pain, fear etc.) when falling victim to mind-altering, torture, or insanity. Some games combine willpower and wisdom.;Perception "aka Alertness, Awareness, Cautiousness, ...":A measure of a character's openness to their surroundings. Perception controls the chance to detect vital clues, traps, or hiding enemies, and might influence combat sequence, or the accuracy of ranged attacks. Perception-type attributes are more common in more modern games. Sometimes combined with wisdom.;Luck "aka Fate, Good Stuff, ...":A measure of a character's luck. Luck might influence anything, but mostly random items, encounters and outstanding successes/failures (such as critical hits).

Attributes in common systems

"Dungeons & Dragons" and the d20 System

D&D uses six "ability scores":
*Strength - physical strength
*Dexterity - agility and speed
*Constitution - ability to resist damage and disease
*Intelligence - mental acuity
*Wisdom - intuition and sense of things around himself
*Charisma - force of personality and physical attractivenessScores are usually rolled randomly, range from 3-18 for most human characters, and can get infinitely high.

Basic Role-Playing

*Strength (STR) - physical strength, ability to lift and carry
*Constitution (CON) - health and endurance, ability to resist damage and disease
*Size (SIZ) - mass (and height)
*Intelligence (INT) - mental acuity
*Power (POW) - basic ability to work magic, also luck and will-power
*Dexterity (DEX) - agility, manual dexterity, and speedand "one" of:
*Charisma (CHA) - leadership, charm, personality (earlier versions)
*Appearance (APP) - physical attractiveness (later versions)Scores are usually rolled randomly, and range from 3-18 for most beginning human characters, except SIZ and INT which range from 8-18 in most versions. Non-human character score ranges can vary more widely.


GURPS uses four (basic) attributes as well as a number of secondary characteristics that are derived from the attributes.Scores for basic attributes are bought or sold during character generation, starting at 10 each for base characters. Secondary characteristics can be modified relative to the primary attribute they are based upon. Skill values are based directly on a specific attribute; most skill rolls are based on 3d6 compared against the skill number.

The four basic attributes are:
*Strength (ST) — "physical" power and bulk, ability to lift, carry, and do damage
*Dexterity (DX) — "physical" agility, coordination, and manual dexterity
*Intelligence (IQ) — "mental" acuity and sense of the world
*Health (HT) — "physical" energy and vitality, ability to resist disease

The four major secondary characteristics are each directly based on a single attribute:
*Hit Points (HP) — how much damage and injury can be sustained, based on "ST"
*Will (Will) — mental focus and strength, withstanding stress, based on "IQ"
*Perception (Per) — general alertness, based on "IQ"
*Fatigue Points (FP) — body energy levels, based on "HT" The other secondary characteristics (such as running speed ) are calculated from one or more attribute values using individual tables or formulae.

Hero System

The "primary characteristics" are:
*Strength (STR, cost 1) - physical strength, ability to lift and carry
*Intelligence (INT, cost 1) - mental acuity, learning ability
*Constitution (CON, cost 2) - health and ability to resist disease
*Dexterity (DEX, cost 3) - agility and manual dexterity
*Ego (EGO, cost 2) - mental fortitude and willpower
*Body (BODY, cost 2) - ability to sustain damage leading towards death, hit points
*Presence (PRE, cost 1) - leadership, charm, personality Scores start at 10 each for base characters and are bought or sold during character generation at the listed cost per point. Normal human maxima are usually defined to be 20 for each.Another set of "secondary characteristics" are derived from the above, though can be bought separately. They do not follow the same scale, rather directly influence game mechanics. These are:
*Physical Defense (PD, base STR/5, cost 1) - resistance to physical damage
*Energy Defense (ED, base CON/5, cost 1) - resistance to physical damage
*Speed (SPD, base DEX/5, cost 10) - number of actions per turn
*Recovery (REC, base STR/5 + CON/5, cost 2) - STUN and END replaced per turn
*Endurance (END, base CONx2, cost 1/2) - energy available as fatigue
*Stun (STUN, base STR/2+CON/2+BODY, cost 1) - ability to sustain damage leading towards unconsciousness

Storyteller System

Storyteller characters have nine Attributes (or Traits) in three "Groups" and from three "Use Categories", as follows:

*"Power Category" (the ability to alter one’s environment):
**Intelligence "(Mental Group)" — how mentally resourceful they are.
**Strength "(Physical Group)" — how physically forceful they can be.
**Presence "(Social Group)" — how socially influential they can be.

*"Finesse Category" (the ability to use power efficiently):
**Wits "(Mental Group)" — how clever and insightful they are.
**Dexterity "(Physical Group)" — how physically graceful they are.
**Manipulation "(Social Group)" — how socially dominating they are.

*"Resistance Category" (the ability to cope with power being exercised upon one’s self):
**Resolve "(Mental Group)" — how mentally determined they are.
**Stamina "(Physical Group)" — how physically enduring they are.
**Composure "(Social Group)" — how socially dignified they are.

Each Attribute is measured with one to five "Dots": With one Dot, a character is “poor” in that Attribute, with five Dots, they are “outstanding”. Each Dot represents one die the Attribute gets to its "Dice Pool". Starting characters get 12 points to add to their Attributes: The first Dot in an Attribute is free, the 2nd to 4th Dots cost one point each, and the 5th Dot costs 2 points to fill in. The player must assign 5, 4, and 3 points, respectively, to each of the Use Categories, prioritizing as they choose.


In the first three editions of Shadowrun, the game system used nine attributes in three categories:

*Physical attributes:
**Quickness — speed, dexterity, agility
**Body — constitution, stamina, and general mass of the character.

*Mental attributes:

In an interesting mechanic, magical and astral plane combat used the Mental attributes in the same way the Physical attributes where used to resolve physical confrontations: Charisma acted as Astral Strength, Intelligence as Quickness, and Willpower as the Mental equivalent of Body.

*Special attributes:
**Essence — solidity of the character’s central nervous system, mind, and spirit.
**Magic — magical energy. For beginning magic-tuned characters, this attribute started at the maximum starting attribute (6), and was reduced through trauma, surgery, or cybernetic implantation, or increased through ritual initiation. It is related very closely to Essence, in which damage to Essence will alter the Magic attribute.
**Reaction — a derived statistic based on the average of Quickness and Intelligence, Reaction determined number of actions per round, the character's initiative in combat, and perception.

However, in the fourth edition, the attributes were rearranged. Quickness was split and renamed Agility, and covered fine motor skills, while Reaction became a base attribute and covered gross motor skills such as movement. As a result, Intelligence was also split in two, with Logic and Intuition becoming the Mental equivalents of Agility and Reaction. Magic no longer started at a six and required starting characters to allocate character points to the statistic as just another attribute.


Traveller uses six attributes (called 'characteristics in the rules). There are three physical characteristics, two mental and one social. Human characters are generated by throwing 2D (2d6) for each characteristic.
*Strength (STR) - Physical characteristic
*Dexterity (DEX) - Physical characteristic
*Endurance (END) - Physical characteristic
*Intelligence (INT) - Mental characteristic
*Education (EDU) - Mental characteristic
*Social Standing (SOC) - Social characteristic

External links

* [ Character Attributes in Role-Playing Games] — Essay by Bob Hall
* [ AD&D Stats Calculator] - Online quiz to translate your personal attributes to an AD&D, v1 attributes.
** [ Version Française] - French version.

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