“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.“— Lazarus Long
We’ve got some character points. We’ve bought some stats. Let’s do something with those stats.
Most tabletop RPGs have some sort of “skill check” system. The most obvious example is if a thief wants to pick a lock. This is a fairly complicated action, requiring understanding of lock-picking techniques, as well as the physical dexterity to manipulate lock tumblers into their appropriate positions without the aid of the key originally designed to do so. Additionally, someone who has some practice in picking locks will, naturally, be better at it than someone who doesn’t, regardless of how smart or dexterous the second person is.
So in my all-fired-up push to get pen to paper, I neglected to mention something VERY KEY to tabletop RPGs, and in fact, gaming in general: Balance. Specifically, how you balance the overall power level of your characters.
There are a few ways to do this. D20 and Palladium both promote a dice-rolling system wherein a character’s stats are determined randomly. That’s fun and all, but let’s be honest, it’s fun for about the first 6 characters you make, after which you realize that the dice aren’t going to turn you into a god every time, or may give you a really awkward stat loadout. “Well I could use a little extra Wisdom and I don’t need quite that much Dexterity, but all I’ve got here are a bunch of 16s and 11s.”(in D20, stats run from 3 to 18, though it’s incredibly rare to see a character with a single stat below 10, which is average.)
If only there were some way to trade points from one stat into another. Some sort of… “Point Buy” system.