Sunday, April 12, 2009

Avatar RPG: Attributes and Skills

Early on in the discussion on this RPG, it was mentioned that the good folks over at's forum had previously concluded that a Wuxia RPG called Weapons of the Gods would be a good fit for Avatar. So I checked it out. And I gotta say, the system is pretty interesting. The character options remarkably match Avatar on several counts, even if the crunch itself isn't always something that's necessary or helpful for the system being used here.

Still, two aspects of WotG worked well enough for me to adapt them as a base for this rpg project: the system's Attributes and associated Skills. For comparison's sake, here's a list of both as seen in the original RPG:

Might (Athletics, Climb, Fight, Hardiness, Lift)
Speed (Initiative, Dodge, Finesse, Melee, Ride)
Presence (Confidence, Grace , Inspire, Perform, Persuade)
Genius (Learning, Crafting, Medicine, Politics, Tactics)
Wu Wei (Awareness, Investigation, Ranged, Sense, Stealth)

And here's the adapted version, meant to better match the feel of the Avatar TV show:

Fitness (Acrobatics, Athletics, Hardiness, Melee, Stance)
Speed (Initiative, Dodge, Finesse, Ranged, Ride)
Presence (Confidence, Diplomacy, Discipline, Inspire, Manipulation)
Genius (Learning, Crafting, Medicine, Politics, Tactics)
Insight (Awareness, Investigation, Sense, Stealth, Survival)

What intrigues me about Weapons of the Gods' attributes are how their mechanics de-emphasize their importance for both the highest and lowest skills the player has. See, an Attribute provides a +1 bonus to any associated skill so long as you have more points (which can range from 1 to 4, at least in my version) in that attribute than you do ranks (which can range from 0 to 5) in that skill. In other words, any skill that you max out will encounter a "dead rank" at some point that does *not* improve your skill because you've lost an equivalent bonus from your attribute.

Because of this, the only reason to care about investing points in a given attribute* is that it lets you get more out of a moderate investment of skill points with the associated skills. A maximized Speed means that you can raise your Initiative, Dodge, Finesse, Ranged and Ride up to 3 each without encountering the dead rank.

So, to review, the Attribute-Skill relationship matches avatar in 2 key ways:
-Specialization is fully permitted without being key to a character's strength. Anyone can max out Acrobatics and be a great acrobat, without having to worry about outside factors. Characters who invest alot into new skills can have an eclectic mix of abilities, the way Sokka demonstrates a level of proficency in such skills as Ranged, Investigation, Melee, Manipulation, Investigation, Survival, Learning, Crafting, and Tactics.
-Attributes are of relatively little importance. When characters do battle in avatar, they don't waste any time wringing their hands over how so-and-so is "stronger" or "faster" than their opponent. Victory depends on subtler factors like self-control, training, strategic choices and outwitting your opponent with improvisation and quick thinking; elements better left in the hands of players than abstracted away as comparitive numeric values.

*(When it comes to skills. I'm also giving each attribute a secondary benefit. Fitness and Speed are added to your base physical defense, Presence and Genius are added to your base mental defense, and Insight is added to your Action Points per session.)

Art Credits: Image by ming85.


Khepri Senefaru said...

Most of the skills I was able to figure out, but could you elaborate a bit on "Stance"?

Dagda said...

It's primarily defensive; lets you retain your footing rather than being easy to trip/knock down/send flying. It's also the key skill for the core Earthbending feat chain (a matter I'll be talking about in the next post on the system).

Khepri Senefaru said...

thanks for the clarification (I wasn't too far off, it seems), I look forward to future postings on this. Keep up the good work.