Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More Musing on Mechanics

Thinking about characters and play, I find myself torn between two stances on ability scores. On the one hand, I like the fact that Swords and Wizardry gives very little mechanical advantage to characters with high ability scores, and little penalty for low scores. On the other hand, it seems like ability scores then become much ado about nothing if they do so little.

Likewise, I like the lack of skill systems, but I also like having characters define their characters a bit more, too.

Quite a conundrum.

Then I thought about an idea I had read back in the 1990s, which I vaguely recall being written by Jonathan Tweet (though I could be wrong) and borrowing an idea from games like Ars Magica -- any ability score above or below average (above 11 or below 9) has a "specialty" which can give a minor mechanical bonus in appropriate situations. Thus a high Strength might be "muscular" or "iron-thewed", and a low Strength might be "bookish" or "puny". Thus a character might look like this:

Str 8 (Bookish)
Int 14 (Well-read)
Wis 10
Dex 13 (Hand-eye coordination)
Con 9
Cha 15 (Authoritative speaker)

I might give minor bonuses when doing library research to such a character, or to talking to academics or wizards, or to scribing scrolls or manipulating traps, but I might give a penalty to lifting heavy things, forcing doors, or intimidating people.