Monday, 23 August 2010

Insomnia and FF Chargen

Insomnia is a pretty shitty thing I suffer from quite a lot and last night I managed do a self-inflict job again and lie awake with eyes like saucers. It was entirely my own fault, I was playing Forza 3 on the 360 and noticed it was nearly midnight on a school night and went to bed because I felt I ought to rather than because I felt tired which fellow insomnia sufferers will immediately recognise as being The Bad Thing To Do.

Anyway, sometimes it turns into a time where you can just sit and think and the more inconsequential thing you think about, the better.

So this morning it was about the Fighting Fantasy system and how you could expand it's SKILL attribute out so it could represent one or more facets of a PC.

SKILL is one of three attributes that describe a character but it's the main one and is a catch-all for anything an adventurer may attempt that isn't pure luck. It's the base score in combat and used for tests of dexterity and intelligence and general physical saving throws. This tends to produce characters that are as clever as they are tough which is clearly a bit simplistic.

But the system is so simple that you could just add another skill, say MENTAL, and generate it and test it in the same fashion as skill without anything actually breaking. So you could insist on all PCs having a MENTAL skill, rolled on D6+6 and tested with 2d6. This would be useful for a campaign or one-shot which drifts away from the usual Fahrd/Gray Mouser/Dirk the Daring-type "adventurer" kills things in a fantasy world. In a cyperpunk campaign with use of netjacking everyone could have an attribute called HACKING or similar, in a campaign setting based around the high fatality rate associated with being a 1960s racing driver (a RPG that I keep trying to get somewhere with and giving up on) everyone could have a MOTOR RACING skill.

Anywhere this is where the insomnia time kicked in and struck me with a great idea.

RPGs have a fixed number of attributes. D&D has six. All PCs have all of these six attributes. But under the system proposed above you wouldn't actually need to. All PCs have a SKILL attribute but any PC may have multiple new attributes added "underneath", all generated in the same fashion. A PC might have a SKILL and a MENTAL if the player wishes. Then any SKILL tests that actually test a PC's mental prowess test the MENTAL attribute instead. Any PC that doesn't have a MENTAL attribute sees that test on his SKILL instead. And that MENTAL attribute could be broken down further still should the setting require it or the player feel it is worthwhile. Into INTELLIGENCE and WISDOM for example. Or have a CHARISMA attribute and optionally replace it with CHARISMA and COMELINESS to pick a rarely used example from Unearthed Arcana.

It struck me that this approach turns FF into a remarkably flexible RPG system whereby PCs can be simple (stick to SKILL) or as complex as required and monostat characters can freely operate alongside those with multiple attributes. And there is no canonical list of attributes to be taken from. If a player wishes to distinguish his SKILL from his TRICK HORSE RIDING ability he is perfectly free to do so.

In fact this could help out PCs lumbered with poor SKILLS of 7 or 8. Simply dream up another attribute and have another dice roll, hopefully giving a higher figure.


  1. I like the idea of characters wandering around with a MENTAL stat, but I suspect my reasons are rather less grown-up than yours!

  2. I doubt it, I'm still amused by AD&D Mentalists.