For some while now I have been thinking about how to create a roleplaying game where the emphasis is on what the player’s character can do rather than the mechanics of how they became able to do it.
Many roleplaying games have detailed character creation and development rules that involve the determination of primary attributes and the derivation from them of secondary attributes, aptitudes, skills and abilities. Some of these can require actual arithmetic to determine how bonuses flow down from the primary attributes to the lesser ones. In this category, I include Dead Simple – which is a bit ironic when you come to think of it.
In play, these primary and secondary attributes hardly feature at all. Instead, the players make dice rolls based upon their characters’ skills, abilities and powers.
When I wrote WYSIWYG I quite accidentally ignored any form of attribute because I was concentrating on defining a chosen figure in roleplaying terms rather than the other way around. Characters were instead defined solely by their skills and abilities. They could choose six of these and, if they chose background race or profession ones, they generally got a two for one deal.
So, if you have a standard task resolution mechanism, such as rolling 15 or more on a d20, then all you need are skills and abilities that allow you modify these rolls in appropriate situations. Add modifiers from having suitable equipment and you are laughing. Then you might like some abilities that give your character the capability to perform acts unrelated to the task resolution system, such as being able to see in the dark.
If you use a skill and ability choice system these could be represented by cards. Add cards for race, profession and equipment and suddenly a character is a deck, not a sheet of paper.
I am going to be playing around with these ideas over the next few weeks and then applying them to a genre to see how they will play out. So watch this space.