Eschalon Book I: Character Progression

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jan 15, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 59 comments

Here we come to the nuts and bolts of character progression. This is where I’m likely to get really fussy and obsessive. If you’re one of those players who uses “auto level-up” in a game, or who hurries past the stats page to get to the more visceral parts of the experience, then this post is going to be as compelling as doing your taxes. Adjust your reading habits accordingly.


Character progression in Eschalon is fun and interesting. My biggest complaint is that the much needed in-game minimap is bound to the “cartography” skill. That is, if you don’t spend skill points on it, you don’t have a minimap. The map is pretty limited until you’ve reached about five ranks in cartography. It costs three skill points to acquire a skill, and then an additional point point for each additional rank. So, it will cost you about seven skill points to make the minimap do what you want. Considering that you only get three skill points each time you level up, this represents a major investment of points. Once you know the game you’ll discover a few ways to acquire points without sacrificing so much of your potential performance in battle, but I still dislike this idea of spending in-game skill points to make the game interface more useful. I also don’t see a need for it from a gameplay perspective: There are already lots of great skills in the game. If the minimap just worked and the cartography skill was taken away you’d never miss it.

Aside from cartography, the skills are interesting and varied. I often found myself wishing for more skill points and agonizing over tradeoffs. The points you spend at level up matter. This scarcity forces you to focus on a few core skills and forego most of the rest, or augment these lesser skills with NPC training and magical gear. I like that the system is tight and that choices feel meaningful. It pretty much demands that you give the game more than one play-through if you really want to see everything. This is as it should be.

In comparing Eschalon to other roleplaying systems, the ubiquitous D&D has six attributes that define your character. (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) Most other RPG’s have that many or less. Fallout was a bit of a renegade and introduced us to a deliciously complex system of seven attributes. Eschalon’s system is broader still, with an astounding eight attributes in the game: Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Speed, Intelligence, Wisdom, Perception, and Concentration. Eight in all, and it doesn’t even include Charisma, which is good because it’s very often a complete waste in a computer RPG.

The division of Dexterity and Speed confused me at first. Most games combine these two concepts. But I can imagine cases where you’d have one but not the other. A jeweler or a locksmith might be capable of lots of fine detail work even if they have slow reflexes. A boxer might be very quick yet imprecise. The distinction makes sense, although I’m still unclear on how it works in practice. Since this is a turn-based game and everyone gets a single turn no matter how high or low their speed is, I have trouble understand exactly what the payoff is for putting points into speed.

Mental prowess is now spread out over three attributes: Intelligence, Perception, and Concentration. There’s certainly some overlap with these concepts, but I don’t mind the division if it leads to interesting gameplay and compelling character choices. My first character to go through the game was a dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks fighter who neglected or ignored all three of the mental stats. I haven’t finished my second run through the game yet. So, I don’t really feel qualified to judge on how these stats behave yet.

(You could also make the argument that Wisdom is another form of the intelligence stat, since it’s merely applied intelligence. At any rate, I’ve never been a fan of the “wisdom” stat in any game, because wisdom is a matter of behavior and therefore should be an emergent part of roleplaying. Like alignment, this should be something to guide you in playing your character, not resolve dice rolls. The way it ends up getting used in most games it should be renamed to “devotion”, “faithfulness”, or “tenacity”. The word “wisdom” implies all sorts of things to which you can’t assign a hard numerical value.)

Eschalon gives you three attribute points (different from skill points) to spend at level up. If you read the forums you’ll see lots of (usually conflicting) advice on how to best spend these. Dump them all into the stats you directly use in combat? Or spread them around and round out your character? My secret shame is that I’m a min-maxer at heart, so I can’t really comment on the usefulness of spreading the points around.

The last few posts on the game have spawned some lively discussions of strategies for character development. That says a lot about the appeal of the underlying system. I like it.


From The Archives:

59 thoughts on “Eschalon Book I: Character Progression

  1. Henebry says:

    Regarding Cartography, one of the early quests in the game allows you to learn the skill from an NPC, spending gold instead of Exp-based skill levels.

    This is especially a good deal when purchasing your first skill level in cartography: 100 gp buys you Cartography 1, something that would have cost 3 skill points when leveling up (that is to say, all the points you get one level).

    Buying skill with gold is a progressively worse deal as your skill increases: 200 gp for Cartography 2, etc., whereas moving from Cartography 2 to 3 (or even 4 to 5) costs just one skill points when leveling up.

  2. Tim says:

    I thought I was being clever by using the Reveal Map spell to boost my cartography from level 2, but then I discovered that walking over the same territory without activating the spell overwrote the map with the lower level map features (wiping out roads, impassible water, etc).
    An irritating blemish on an otherwise enjoyable game.

  3. scragar says:

    if you hover over the atribute it does tell you a little about it.

    Speed is a measure of how quickly your character is able to perform actions. The higher your Character’s Speed is, the faster he can swing a melee weapon(thus increasing maximum deliverable damage) and the lower hisbase Armor Rating is because he is more able to quickly evade an oncoming attack.

    I found it quite easy to get around without the cartography skill, and I learnt it from a book later on in the game(which is far better than spending 3 whole skill points on it).

  4. Davesnot says:

    Any game that lets you pick how you level up and what/who you are will generate fierce opinions on what is the “right” way to build your character.

    And any situation where nobody can _really_ prove your way wrong will create strong feelings that .. (singing).. “I.. Did it Myyyyyy Wayyyy” … which makes for great re-playability.. because sometimes you have to really work at it for your way to even come close to being sufficient… and when it finally works… HA!!! See! I told you my way works!

    All great stuff to get someone to swear by your game..

    Which.. BTW.. is why you should all go back and dust on NWN1.. update it.. and play some new modules.. if the haks worry you.. .. never mind.. we’re all nerds here.. no nerd is gonna worry about haks in a game that has a folder to put your haks in since…. (ramble.. ramble)..

  5. Shamus says:

    scragar: That description is exactly what I was talking about. It talks about swinging your weapon faster, which isn’t possible / useful in a turn-based game. It talks about “maximum damage”, but how does this differ from the damage boost you get when spending points on plain old strength?

    I think showing the character sheet during level-up would help. So, I can dump some points into one score, see the change to my stats, pull them out and put them elsewhere. Right now the only way to find out the effect of various changes is to write down all your stats, level up, compare the changes, then reload the game and try a different set of changes.

    (In fallout there was a little window right in the middle of the character screen that showed your base AC, HP, resistances, etc, so you could fiddle with the numbers and get a feel for what the various changes would mean.)

  6. boojum says:

    I haven’t gotten amazingly far yet, but I have noticed that some monsters are able to chase you faster than others; the slow monsters sometimes don’t move when you do. This lets me play the running archery game, as long as it’s light out and I have room to maneuver. I was guessing that this was due to speed differences between me and them.

  7. Samrobb says:

    Yeowch. Just went back to play the demo again – I’ve done it once as a fighter, once as a rogue to get a feel for things. Played as a mage this time, and with 5 levels of elemental skill and the firedart spell, I was able to one-shot most critters from a good distance.

    I originally intended to max out the cartography skill, just to see what it did – playing an elementalist was a whim. Once I get the game, I expect that I’ll favor some combination of elemental/divination user with unarmed and dodge, at least for my first run-through.

  8. Phlux says:

    The last RPG I played was Mass Effect. I don’t mean to ignite commenting on the previous closed-comment post, but I really dug that game and I found its leveling system to be pretty unique.

    In Mass Effect they did away with Stats entirely. You have them, I’m sure, in the background, but at no point are you rolling up values or doing any kind of point-buy.

    You choose from a few pre-defined classes that affect which skills you’re able to buy during level-ups which are frequent. In some cases you have to level one skill to a certain point before you can start on another (e.g. Pistol must be at lvl4 before you can start on Shotgun), but if you’re leveling up your Soldier, you’ll never be able to take a point in a Biotic skill.

    This was pretty intuitive and it avoids the mistakes many people make in cRPGs…they pick up too many useless skills and don’t level up their key skills sufficiently.

    My only beef with the game after playing it twice is that the combat sucks at first (until you get the hang of it, then it’s fun, much like KOTOR) and you can’t directly take control of your party members and must settle for giving them orders instead.

  9. Joe says:

    I’ve been fine with just 2 points in cartography… what do the higher skills even grant? All I need are my warnings of “there’s a wall here!”

    One of the best combos I’ve seen so far is to use Predatory Sight coupled with Archery at night or in dungeons. You can range enemy attackers at no loss due to shadow concealment, but you yourself remain hidden in the shadows. It’s wonderful for fighting swarms of lower level monsters and enemy archers.

  10. roxysteve says:

    FWIW: Call of Cthulhu requires eight stats. I never really thought about that aspect of the game before reading this article.


  11. Shamus says:

    Joe: I think you need 5 levels of cart before it will show WATER. I HATE traveling over a vast green area only to find out I’m walled off by a lake or river.

  12. Shamus says:

    roxysteve: Cthulhu has 8 stats? Man, that game sounds insane.

  13. James says:

    So I haven’t actually bought the game yet, but I have to say this is the first demo I’ve played through more than once in, well, living memory.

    That much replayability in a demo is something sorely missed by so many of them. Can’t wait to buy the full version tonight and play through. At least twice. :)

  14. TooMad says:

    That’s why I like a tool called Game Wizard. When I encounter something like Cartography in this game where not having it hurts my enjoyment of the game I just hack the skill to something reasonable and play the rest as normal.

  15. Schmidt says:

    One Point in Elemental skill Air Shield Level 1 (40 rounds) any ranged attack = Archer Destroyer.

    Predatory Sight Chameleon Dark = 1/4 Enemy Chance to hit, with yours unchanged.

    (early quest) 100g 200g 300g Map Skill Book (which gives two points) = Good Cartography Skill. I’ve noted that pumping the skill even higher does have some benefits, roads appear after skill 5 (6-8ish) and later on you can see creatures and NPC’s on the mini-map, which is a boon if you wanna save mana (if you have it) on Pred Sight. I assume you can see items later on as well.

    I have other notes, but then I don’t wanna spoil too much.

  16. MintSkittle says:

    FWIW, Shadowrun 4th edition has 9/10 stats.
    Body, Strength, Agility, Reaction, Charisma, Intuition, Logic, Willpower and Edge. If you choose to be a mage/adept or a technomancer, you get an extra stat: Magic/Resonance.

  17. David says:

    I hex edited my save to 20 cartography, because I am a bad person.

    (It seems to get you water, roads, colored-in terrain types, enemies, and lootable objects.)

  18. J says:

    Is 8 stats really that impressive? White Wolf has used 9 attributes for the longest time: Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Manipulation, Composure, Intelligence, Wits, Resolve.

  19. Kotenku says:

    I’d do things entirely indecent and unwholesome for a Luck stat, to keep from having to reload 30 times in order to get some decent treasure spawns.

  20. mos says:

    Trying not to derail this thread, but does anyone know of any D20/AD&D turn based games in development? (I loved Temple of Elemental Evil, especially after the fanfixes.)

  21. Nilus says:

    Maybe I am such an old school gamer but I can think of a ton of RPGs that have more then 6 stats. Its not always a bad thing if they make sense. But most of the time the more stats a game has the more likely there are a few dump stats that only a really specialized character worries about. Most everyone else just puts there worse roll into it and doesn’t worry about it.

    Anyways Eshalon looks interesting, and the idea of an old school turn based rpg sounds fun. I have tried to play Mass Effect with a sleeping new born in my lap and it hasn’t really worked well. I think a game I can play one handed and pauses every turn could be more enjoyable at this point. How long is the Demo anyways?

  22. Shawn says:

    J beat me to it. World of Darkness games have 9 stats, each with a niche.

  23. Dana says:

    I more than agree with Shamus about the “Cartography skill” issue. For me, it is a (vital) game feature rather than a skill, and a usable minimap should be included without forcing me to gimp my combat skills in order to do it.

    After trying to use the Reveal Map spell with my first character (in lieu of any Cartography skill) and finding that unworkable (because of mana drain and other reasons), I tried a character with a starting Cartography of 5. This worked OK, except that I felt that I was giving up too many precious skill points to do it. So when I learned of the chance to learn Cartography in-game, I rerolled a new character with no initial Cartography skill.

    And despite the fact that I fully realized that it becomes far more expensive (i.e. less worth it) as you train higher skill levels, I trained ALL 5 skill levels in Cartography from the guy in the inn (costing me a total of 1500 gold).

    Why? Because it merely costs gold, which only has a “soft” limit in the number of lootable items in-game. “Extra” gold is easily generated through the loot exploit (which Shamus has already talked about), whereas my skill points have “hard” limits (only the initial 23 plus 3 per level, plus a few extra possible from in-game items, which is negligible since these items only work once per skill or must be equipped, taking up a slot where another item might otherwise go).

    Instead of a 5 Cartography skill off the start, I went with a 5 Mercantile skill and haven’t regretted it once. Between that and the loot exploit, I have already generated all of the money to pay for level 5 Cartography training before even hitting 4th (character) level, and so I have effectively gained a usable minimap without it costing my character anything (aside from a few temporary minor equipment upgrades).

    If I still had a hex editor and knew where to edit, I would use that solution in a heartbeat. Because as I said, I think that they are simply making their software a pain-in-the-ass by not including a minimap as a basic feature, and I don’t feel in any way bad about “modifying” their software to include this feature.

    P.S. There is a pair of sandals in the game called “Scout’s Sandals” (I think), which are light armor shoes with a 2 Cartography skill built in. My second character looted a pair and then wore them for walking around the map, even though he only had the heavy armor skill. He just switched them out for heavy armor boots whenever he got into combat, and then tried to stand still while fighting (to avoid the nuisance of overwriting the map with a lower cartography skill and having to re-map it after battle). ;)

  24. Dana says:

    By the way, Shamus, assuming that is your character (Axiom) that we are looking at a picture of above, hats off to you for your character re-rolling restraint! Judging from your Endurance, Speed, and Concentration scores, you settled for a character with at least *3* stats below 11 (including a SEVEN)! With my last two characters, I kept re-rolling until ALL of my stats were 11 or higher (my last char was only 7 points off of the maximum possible). :)

  25. Namfoodle says:

    I’ll jump in with a comment on Stats, although I haven’t played anything but D&D in years.

    HERO has a bunch of stats, some of which are calculated based on the scores of you other stats. But all of them can be bought up with the points you spend to create a character (no die rols). You get most of the the basics similar to D&D (STR, DEX, CON, INT). Then you have Ego and Presence, which sort of map to Wisdom and Charisma. Your Speed determines the number of actions you get in a combat round. Body is like hit points, but you also have a Stun stat to represent non-lethal knockout damage. There’s Physical Defense and Energy Defense. Your Endurance points represent how much exertion you can do before getting winded or knocking yourself out. And you get a Recovery stat to add back to your Endurance and Stun at the end of each round (or whenever you burn an action to take a breather).

    And Roll Master had 10 Stats. There were 3 mental stats that mapped to three different spellcasting traditions (Essence, Divine and Mentalism). I think those stats mapped to resistance vs. magic but not skills. Then you had Srength, Agility, Quickness, Constitution, Memory, Reasoning and Self Discipline.

  26. Ozy says:

    While we’re mentioning this sort of thing, GURPS 4e has stats for Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Health, Perception, Will, Basic Speed, Basic Move, HP, and FP. However, all of these are derived from the first 4 unless you decide to change them from their default values, which I guess makes the real number 4, unless you use the commonly used alternate rule that makes Perception and Will not derived from Intelligence, in which case the number of mutually independent stats would be 6.

  27. Leslee says:

    Stats, schmats…

    I’m still really grumpy about the fact that you can’t play a WOMAN in this game!

    Would it really have been so hard for the game designers to put in a couple of female portraits and make the dialog adjust according to your character’s gender?

    In retaliation, I created a Mage and named him “Peaches”. At least it makes me giggle…

  28. Whiner says:

    Since I haven’t gone past the demo, I don’t know, but if there are romance bits to the storyline, it can create a lot of extra work to allow both male and female PCs…. unless you leave everything exactly as it would be for the male and then people complain about that too (Ecstatica :) )

  29. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    I dont know when this one came out,but for AD&D 2nd edition there was a bonus book which had loads of improvements(read:bunch of new rules).One of those was the division of all the stats in two.So instead of strenght,there were stamina(how much you can carry)and muscle(bonus to damage).Dexterity became speed and reflex,constitution was (I think) resistance and body,inteligence was knowledge and something,wisdom was willpower and intuition,and charisma was….I forgot what.Id like to see a game having these 12 stats,although its quite a pain for P&P playing.

    I find it quite odd that you need to spend 3 skill points for the initial level in the skill,yet every other costs just 1.Somehow feels unnatural.The system I use(remade a lot by me)makes you need to spend as much skill points as the next level of the skill is.So to get something from 5 to 6,you need 6 skill poiunts.And you need to train(spend time and probably money)in order to do this.Of course,during the creation,every skill level costs just 1 skill point.

    As for CRPGs I like morrowind/oblivion skill system the best:The more you do something,the better you are.Of course,it can lead to some absurdities like playing a game of hopping and picking flowers,but it still is the best system IMO.

  30. SimeSublime says:

    I agree on the ridiculousness of the wisdom stat. I much prefer Shadowrun 4th edition, where Intelligence is replaced by Logic and Wisdom with Intuition. There are also Charisma and Willpower stats to round out the mental side. It really allows you to roleplay your character how you want to.

  31. Avaz says:

    Like the game (demo), not such a big fan of the restriction of the dice rolling. Case in point, I’m somewhat of a min-maxer as well, and I tend to reroll until I end up with all stats above 12 if possible. One of the things that bugs me is that with a great roll (more than 4 14s) I usually ended up with one or two horrible stats, and I couldn’t reduce one to put them in the other, for instance.

    Otherwise, great game. I got only partway through the demo and it resparked my love of NWN2, so I cracked it out and started playing that (ahh, a full screen, hi-res RPG :P )

  32. Joshua says:

    I am also not a fan of the Wisdom stat, but there is actually a way to represent it numerically- most people call it experience points :)

    What D&D calls Wisdom is an amalgamation of Willpower and Perception, and a little bit of common sense.

    When they had that discussion of getting rid of unnecessary historical relics(I can’t remember what the official euphemism was for them) for 4th Edition D&D, I was kind of hoping that they would just combine Wisdom and Charisma into one stat(call it Presence or something), since the stats are individually not used that often unless you’re a Cleric or similar class.

    Daemian_Lucifer: The book to which you’re referring is the Skills and Powers set. Although an interesting idea, splitting up the stats wasn’t a balanced idea in some respects, namely strength- you’d have one stat that determined the maximum weight load and another that determined attack and damage bonus, and everything else. Guess which one would be preferred?

  33. scragar says:

    Dana: the demo is easy to hack, so I assume the real game would offer a similar lack of restraints(rare you find a game that does not try to prevent hacking btw). the memory address is 0068, with each stat(starting with strength), then skill being 4 addresses apart(so 0030, 0034, 0038…00A8, 00AC – I think that’s the end, could be wrong).

    I have noticed a rather strange thing with regard to torches as well, if you turn a torch on as you attack, and off again as your foe’s attack, not only does the torch never burn out(atleast not from doing this), but you can avoid the accuracy drop, while ensuring that your foes suffer from it.

  34. MaxEd says:

    Hm, it seems that opinions on Cartography are very divided. I enjoyed this feature, though never had this skill beyond 8 (5 from skill + 3 from amulet).

    About Charisma stat: Arcanum made good use of it. Also I liked how your Charisma dropped if you have ugly scar :)

  35. DGM says:

    All this fuss over having 8 attributes and a variety of skills reminds me that I once stumbled across an RPG system that had only one stat, period:

    What’s your DUDEness score?

  36. DGM says:


    “When they had that discussion of getting rid of unnecessary historical relics(I can't remember what the official euphemism was for them) for 4th Edition D&D, I was kind of hoping that they would just combine Wisdom and Charisma into one stat(call it Presence or something), since the stats are individually not used that often unless you're a Cleric or similar class.”

    I’m amused at Sorcerors having Charisma as their primary stat while Clerics get Wisdom. Clerics are the ones who have to beseech other beings to grant them powers (which implies the need for Charisma), while Sorcerors are supposed to be harnessing innate powers intuitively (and intuition is a function of Wisdom).

    Always seemed bass-ackwards to me.

  37. lxs says:

    Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) had a silly number. Like 12-16. You don’t need that many.

    Body, Mind, Power/Magic is plenty imho. Characters with 18 Con / 8 Str just don’t make much sense to me. Nor 18 Int / 8 Wis, there’s a strong correlation between the two.

    Shamus, have you played Blue Dragon? It’s fulfilling me in ways I’d rather not disclose in public. Just the load game screen makes me wibble a little.

  38. Daemian_Lucifer says:


    “I have noticed a rather strange thing with regard to torches as well, if you turn a torch on as you attack, and off again as your foe's attack, not only does the torch never burn out(atleast not from doing this), but you can avoid the accuracy drop, while ensuring that your foes suffer from it.:

    In the forums it says that this exploit was removed in one patch by making it a full round to light/extuinguish a torch.However,in 1.04 this exploit is back.And its quite a funny one.

  39. Annon says:

    Speaking of games with a lot of stats, has anyone here played Control? It’s a PnP RPG with a system that I find very interesting. There are almost no numerical stats–instead you pick four “qualities” and as many “flaws” as you can handle from a list of eighteen: Aim, Agility, Charm, Dexterity, Empathy, Endurance, Faith, Grit, Health, Intelligence, Intuition, Perception, Presence, Strength, Speed, Threshold, Will, and Wit.

    The Qualities and Flaws determine how many points you have to spend to acquire skills. The idea is that more qualities and fewer flaws equate to different natural aptitudes in different areas of expertise.

    The other interesting thing is the way the system handles rolls–it only uses d20’s and fiddles with the bell-curve instead of adding modifiers to d20 rolls. Instead of adding modifiers to rolls, you throw a handful of d20’s and pick the highest number. Bonuses add more dice to the roll while penalties add a die and force you to take the second (or third, fourth, fifth) highest result. I haven’t actually had a chance to playtest this system yet, but I’m starting my first game and looking forward to it.

  40. Jeff says:

    Cartography caps at 13, I believe, at which point further points does nothing. Or was it 18? Hm.

    I’m too lazy to exploit torches, I had well over 30 by the end since I switched to lanterns and spells but didn’t get out of the habit of stealing torches.

    Don’t mind the fluff descriptions by the way, Shamus. When it says speed increases damage, it does mean it. Damage bonus from attributes (for slash/bludge/cleave at leasts)is (Str+Spd)/2, whole numbers only.

    Book II promises to be party based, so we should have females by then :)

    This one is supposed to mirror the old school games where you don’t even have a map, but needed pen and pencil, heh.

  41. roxysteve says:

    January 15th, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    roxysteve: Cthulhu has 8 stats? Man, that game sounds insane

    I get that.


  42. roxysteve says:

    January 15th, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Is 8 stats really that impressive? White Wolf has used 9 attributes for the longest time: Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Manipulation, Composure, Intelligence, Wits, Resolve.

    You’d need “Resolve” I reckon. I just picked up a copy of the Star Trek RPG (WHAT? I got it half price. Whaddayou care?) which uses something called the “Coda” system. It might be an easy system to use. I dunno, ‘cos after three days of reading the rulebook I’m still not sure how to generate and play a character.

    Once again, game manufacturers:

    1) Organize your thoughts before you write them down
    2) Sidebars are for detailed explanations of abtuse rule points or for running examples to increase clarity. If you are putting your “how to build a character” instructions in them (yes, I’m speaking to YOU Lynn Willis) you have badly overcluttered the rulebook and should start over.

    Grumpy Steve

  43. Lebkin says:

    Joshua: “When they had that discussion of getting rid of unnecessary historical relics(I can't remember what the official euphemism was for them) for 4th Edition D&D”

    The phrase you are looking for is “sacred cows”. As in, WotC is slaughtering several sacred cows of D&D such as Paladin multi-class restrictions and alignment.

    I sometimes wonder about the level of geekness required to correct a fellow geek about the proper slang for a discussion about changes to a role-playing game. Then I realize that wondering about the level of geekness is itself a higher level. This leads to the temptation to make a list (or maybe a chart) of geek activities and their respective levels. At this point, reality usually settles in and prevents me from taking my inner geek any further (the outer geek has work to do), but it is an interesting thought.

  44. Crystalgate says:

    When it comes to attributes, I’m more interested in how much they allow me to diffrentiate the characters from each other than the sheer number of them. Teoretically, the higher number of stats there are, the higher the number of sets of stats. In practise however, some builds leaves other things to be desired.

    Immagine I make a dumb as a rock fighter type character in game system X. Then starting the second playtrough I make another fighter, but this time I want him to be, while hardly a genious, still fairly intelligent. What I could do is to take the starting stats of the first character and then move one from Strength, Constitution and Agility each to Intelligence. Unfortunately, there’s a problem. In game system X, Intelligence is useless for fighters or the use is so minor it’s not worth considering. At this point, the only way I have differentiated my second character from the first is by making it weaker at combat. Sure the second character also has a higher intelligence score, but since that one doesn’t really do anything, it doesn’t actually contribute towards differentiating my character. Of course, if I make a mage instead then Intelligence will start to matter, but now maybe I don’t have any use for strength instead.

    My point is not that all stats must be equal to all type of characters. However, I judge a status system by how effective it is at differentiating the characters from each other and not by the actual number of different stats. How many different ways are there I can distribute the stat points and still get appealing builds? That is what I count.

  45. Ryan says:

    January 16th, 2008 at 2:31 am

    About Charisma stat: Arcanum made good use of it. Also I liked how your Charisma dropped if you have ugly scar

    Actually, it was beauty that would drop, which actually makes more sense. I did like the way Arcanum broke out each of the stats into Physical and Mental strata.

  46. niall says:

    Lebkin, I think the term for that is meta-geeking…

  47. New World of Darkness Stats: Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Manipulation, Composure, Intelligence, Wits, Resolve.

    These are actually White Wolf’s new WoD stats, and have only been around for a relatively short time. The stats they’ve been using “for the longest time ever” are actually Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Manipulation, *Appearance*, *Perception*, Intelligence, and Wits. And White Wolf still uses these stats for Exalted and games outside their World of Darkness line.

    For many years, Appearance was a dump stat. But when the Second Edition of Exalted came out–with a Social Combat System as detailed as its actual combat system–Appearance all of a sudden became useful and important, and not just “vanity tax.”

    But yes, I find that it’s nice to see a game that doesn’t lump all motor skills into a catch-all “Dexterity.” Eschalon manages to catch something that people overlook: That fine motor skills and major motor skills are not the same thing.

    An agile and swift basketball player relies on a different sort of muscle-nerve coordination than a brain surgeon or master lock-picker. If I had to give fine motor skills a label, I would call them “Dexterity,” the ability to use one’s hands to work deftly and with great precision. Well, that’s a very, er, imprecise way to put it, but the point is there. Major motor skills, on the other hand, I would call “Agility.” Leaping, tumbling, spinning roundhouse-kicking, stunt-fighting. The other half of the Rogue’s repertoire as it were.

    But lxs has a very good point, in that more often than not, you don’t really need more than 3-4 very broad stats if you’re going to RP. But as a stathead, I cannot help but drool at the prospect of an attribute system meatier than D&D’s. I’m not sure too many fellow nerds would disagree too much.

  48. Joshua says:

    Lebkin, thank you for that. Couldn’t remember the term(sacred cows). There were quite a few discussions of items that should be removed, like alignment, Vancian(pre-memorized and then forgotten) spellcasting, etc.

    Personally, I’m kind of disappointed that Paladins will remain in the core rulebooks for 4th edition, as IMO they were just an exotic class(like Bards) that came out in alternative books back in 1st Ed and somehow made it to the mainstream. I think they’re too specific a class to be a coreclass, and make more sense as a Prestige class(I don’t even know if those will stay in 4th Ed). As one person put it, a properly played Paladin is more destructive to group harmonics than a Chaotic-Evil Rogue played by a 13 year-old boy. Basically, when the main purpose of the game is to search through monsters’ lairs, kill them, and steal their stuff, Paladins stand out like a sore thumb. They’re really only useful in those games that get away from the dungeoneering aspect, and have more of an epic good vs. evil plot.

    As far as stats, I think D&D 4th edition should set up stats so there is no such thing as a “dump-stat”. When I play Lord of the Rings Online, EVERY one of the five stats is useful to EVERY character class in at least a moderate fashion, leading to dilemmas and hard choices. As Shamus said above, this is as it should be.

    Yes, this got a little off the original topic.

  49. Jeff says:

    a properly played Paladin is more destructive to group harmonics than a Chaotic-Evil Rogue played by a 13 year-old boy.

    That’s grossly mistaken there. That’s an improperly, quite poorly played Paladin, by someone who can’t do anything other than make a one-dimensional cardboard cutout.

    The ‘invade monsters’ homes, murder them, steal their possessions’ has nothing against the Paladin’s Code of Conduct, with one requirement. If the monsters are a threat to somebody within the Paladin’s area of concern, then their removal, in the environment common to D&D, is perfectly valid. Gods smite. Paladins are hardly expected to arrest and drag back a clan of marauding orcs. Their own patron god is likely to smite their foes. Smite Evil anyone? Taking their possessions? What does modern Law Enforcement do with the proceeds of crime? Either disposal (drugs), or auction them off for funds to fight crime. The adventuring Paladin is just more direct.

    So a Paladin has no problem with killing or taking stuff, so long as it’s from valid targets.

    The only problem is immature brats who use Detect Evil as Detect Target. An innkeeper who waters down his ale and is thus selfish and cheating his customers pings as Evil (WotC example). Killing him is still unacceptable – murder > cheat. Two guardsman, both selfish and accepts bribes, and pinging as Evil. The one who upholds (most) of the Laws and continues to hold the peace, and thus promotes the overall good of society still cannot be justly killed. The one who betrays those he is supposed to protect and actives hurts society may, however how is Detect Evil supposed to tell the difference?

    Paladins are only disruptive if the player is disruptive. This applies for all classes and alignments. They’re just used as an excuse.

    The Code of Conduct, by the way:
    ” A paladin must be of lawful good alignment and loses all class abilities if she ever willingly commits an evil act.

    Additionally, a paladin's code requires that she respect legitimate authority, act with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison, and so forth), help those in need (provided they do not use the help for evil or chaotic ends), and punish those who harm or threaten innocents. “

  50. Varil says:

    Players are reknown for fighting dirty, ignoring authority and being chaotic.

  51. Joshua says:

    “So a Paladin has no problem with killing or taking stuff, so long as it's from valid targets.”

    Once again, that requires the campaign to somewhat cater to that player, and require that the dungeons/killing/looting always revolve around evil creatures. So, go take out the orc fortress, or search the crypt of the evil lich will work, but searching the lost ruins of the elven citadel for long-lost treasure would have problems motivating the Paladin in a lot of situations.

    That original quote about Paladins was not made by me, but I tend to agree with it. Most times someone plays a Paladin, there’s going to be constant arguments between the characters because there motivations quite differ. Sometimes arguments are good and make for immersive RP, but in the Paladin’s case, it’s always the same old stale thing.

    I’ve been playing for about 17 years off and on, and I’ve never seen a Paladin in a group that didn’t result in discord, and I’m talking about completely different players in different states. I’m sure there are examples where a properly played Paladin got along just fine, but as I said, I would have to imagine that the campaign was accomodating to the Paladin character in that respect, and/or most or all of the other PCs were playing Lawful Good types.

    While I won’t say it’s the only problem, yes, the Detect Evil ability results in issues as the PC will be using it non-stop.

  52. Jeff says:

    I am unswayed from the idea that the only time there are disruptive characters is when the player is being disruptive.

    The personality of the character is up to the player, and thus they are directly responsible for the motivations of the characters.

    Searching the lost ruins of the elven citadel for long-lost treasure? These are lost ruins, so clearly said treasure is abandoned, or subject to salvage. If there IS lost treasure, such potentially useful resources are being wasted sitting around when they could be used for good, so unless there’s something more immediate or important, why not go and recover it, so that it can be put to better use? Since it’s not all that lost, as the party can get there, we should go fairly soon, otherwise the Forces of Evil may well recover it first for nefarious purposes.

    See? No problem at all for a player who wants to keep the peace and cooperate with the DM and his fellow players.

    A druid can just as easily have excuses to not be motivated for this, but I see no complaints voiced about tree huggers (no bias against Druids, or any of the classes for that matter. I just dislike playing Barbarians because I’m too lazy to deal with Rage). The only reason Paladins have a bad rap is because they’re often used disruptively, and the fault is entirely upon the players doing so.

    I’ve only been playing for about 10, with random groups for about 3 or 4 in the middle, but I have never encountered ANY problems with characters that aren’t ENTIRELY the fault of the player. Never the class, race, or alignment. As one of the DMotR comics points out, players can justify any actions by their character. Actions remain the responsibility of the player controlling the character.

  53. Annon says:

    This is the old “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument applied to DnD. Of course it is the players fault if he is disruptive with his paladin. That’s not at debate. The issue falls in how easy it is for a player to be disruptive. The class itself encourages disruptive behavoir by hinging entirely on alignment. For inexperienced players, it is too easy to go overboard on the Lawful and the Good because they are worried about losing all their class abilities, even if it isn’t their intention to be disruptive.

    Back to the subject at hand–so noone hs played Control? Thought not. Eschalon looks really fun. I miss turn basedRPG’s and look forward to playing this one when I have time.

  54. Jeff says:

    The fact that you pointed out inexperienced players means I have no further issue with the topic.

    The problem is poor interpretation of alignment. I wonder if the WotC article on it is still there… they need much better descriptions and examples in the PHB.

  55. Annon says:

    “The fact that you pointed out inexperienced players means I have no further issue with the topic.”

    If you have to be a veteran player who has played DnD for years to avoid ruining the game while you’re playing a core class, it means the class sucks. The point of making a product isn’t simply to cater to the customers you already have, you know. Newbies deserve to have fun too.

  56. Krey says:

    Body, Mind, Power/Magic is plenty imho. Characters with 18 Con / 8 Str just don't make much sense to me. Nor 18 Int / 8 Wis, there's a strong correlation between the two

    If you count “One, two, three, plenty” then – and only then – you’re right.
    There is actually a rather weak correlation between strength and constitution as well as intelligence and wisdom, especially at high levels. An athlete with exception strength doesn’t necessarily have an exceptional constitution. Does that really need pointing out?
    I’m also quite ready to believe that a smart person isn’t necessarily wise.

  57. Jeff says:

    No, my point is that problems come from disruptive players, period. My issue is with ‘properly played paladins disrupt the game’. They don’t. It is improperly played characters, of any class, that disrupt the game. The problem remains the player, not the character.

    The player dictates the character’s actions, never the other way around. “That’s what the character would do!” is NEVER an acceptable excuse for ruining everyone’s game, because there is always, always something else they could have justified doing.

    There is never a situation a band of heroes gets into that a player cannot justify a paladin going along with, including making deals with evil outsiders. For example, it is a problem player who refuses to simply cooperate with the Demigorgan to stop another demon prince from invading their own world, not the character. If the paladin isn’t willing to cooperate, at the least he should hold his tongue and not cause problems because most paladins have a decent Wisdom score for spells, and even the dumbest amongst us (as in, us as people) will see that though we can’t trust him, there is no reason to make him an enemy.

    So even in such an extreme circumstance the paladin isn’t a problem. Assuming the standard non-evil party, of course.

    In my experience, problems are always rooted in players, regardless of class. A good player (as in behavior and relations) never causes problems regardless of class or alignment. A bad player will disrupt the game regardless of what they play, like a barbarian suddenly attacking a lich a low level party is trying to talk out of a fight, or a rogue pick pocketing everyone in sight during tense negotiations. All of which are symptoms of a bored player who is acting out in a bad, disruptive way.

  58. digiplaya2008 says:

    Hey, there’s so much arguing about the technical aspects of this game here that I think most of us are beginning to forget the actual “CORE” fun of the game, or just to enjoy IT!

    If you’re really technical, just play D&D or some similar other RPG in the paper/pencil style. Then you could argue about it all you want.

    Just a thought

    My two cents

  59. Tacoma says:

    TL;DR: You need five stats plus two setting-specific stats. Those two stats will change by genre.

    Arcanum had an excellent ability score system. You have eight statistics in two groups. Four stats are mental, four physical, and each is a mirror of the other.

    Strength/Intelligence: Power
    Constitution/Willpower: Endurance
    Dexterity/Perception: Agility
    Beauty/Charisma: Attractiveness

    So with subcategorization it’s easy to recognize what they all do. It seems that not much is left out. But in a tabletop game you want things to be as simple as possible so there’s no reason to separate attractiveness into two stats. You also generally need just one stat for mental agility and mental power. So you’re left with:


    And this looks pretty familiar, right? Re-arrange them and you’ve pretty much got d20 statistics. If you use the d20 definition for Charisma as force of will you can eliminate Willpower. If you agree that Strength and Constitution correlate strongly enough you can replace them with one statistic (say Body, I’d love a better word). Then you get:


    But at this point things get a little skimpy. Ideally you want 7+-2 ability scores. Six or seven is ideal. Eight or five is pushing it. Four is GURPS lite and way too thin. You could argue for a “Body / Mind” statistic system for something meant to be played in short bursts – say a card game or board game. But for sufficient crunch you need 7+-2.

    I think D&D got it pretty much right. But different systems should have different statistics based on what activites are being done. There is no universal system. A “Radiation Resistance” attribute is pointless in a medieval fantasy game. Similarly a “Magic” attribute is pointless in a hardboiled pulp adventure game. Some statistics are universal, but you need to pare them down to where you can add setting-appropriate statistics and still obey 7+-2. I’d suggest:


    In this scheme Personality comprises both Charisma and Willpower. Intelligence is used for everything else mental. STR/CON/DEX do their normal part.

    Now to that you can add two setting-specific stats (Rad Resist, Magic, Psi, Bravery, Corruption, Luck, Essence, whatever) and still keep a manageable number of stats. Or you could leave out everything else and just play Papers and Paychecks.

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